Advice from F. Scott Fitzgerald

After making a grocery store run the other day, I’d just finished wiping the packaging down and my husband was starting to put things away when he made an interesting observation. “There’s an awful lot of exclamation points on the packages. Just about everything has one.”

We started looking at the packaging of prepared foods and snacks, and it was readily apparent how right he was. I took some pictures and here are a few examples:

FE8E402D-2D1A-4CB8-B7CF-692686C04DEF_1_201_a70F54D99-A1EF-45B5-BF86-DA0F9CA53BBA_1_201_aF313ACEE-316C-4DC3-86E5-0A7284EC3334

Even Ree Drummond’s jar of marinara sauce had to get in on the act. 4C658059-7069-4587-844C-79C866130BB2

On the back label, where it describes the sauce, the end of the paragraph reads “…it’s a cheese lover’s dream!”

Apparently the exclamation point has been around since the 1500s, and was a derivation from “io” which was an expression of joy. Eventually it morphed into being written with the I over the O to shorten up space. Who knew? (It should also not be confused with the catchy chant from down under that is heard at sporting events, “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” immediately followed by “Oi, oi, oi!” But that’s spelled differently and as far as I can tell, doesn’t mean anything other than a general “we love you, support you and are tipping a pint in your honor, mate!”

Since then, marketing ‘geniuses’ everywhere have co-opted the exclamation point and want us to THINK it means something akin to joy, when it really just means “I want you to think you can’t live without me.”617DC9B1-6357-4EF3-9FCD-95F0535C6FA9 Obviously it’s working, otherwise they wouldn’t continue doing it. Even on healthy choices, they’re using it to make you feel good about what you just picked up. “You made this choice, it healthy, how smart of you.” Or maybe the message is “Well aren’t you the good planner. F531EBBB-E2DF-48FE-B547-E614D30500F1Your gathering will be special because you have enough crackers. It’s a family size box and you won’t run out, no one will be hungry or feel slighted. But what would happen if it weren’t there? Would you still buy the product? Of course you would. The bigger question is, are you driven to buy one brand over the other because of the exclamation point? I’m going to guess probably not, unless you’re either a) trying a completely new product or b) that exclamation point is part of something else in the packaging that caught your eye, such as telling you that it has “30% more!” in the package. Seriously, would you buy it if the label just said “!”? Of course not, it’s the “30%” that gets your attention.

It isn’t limited to foods, either. The cover of a clothing catalog had this at the bottom:

“10% off! Details on Back Cover ⎮ 100+ NEW GIFT IDEAS INSIDE!”

And this isn’t some new phenomenon either. I’ve been working on selling some HO scale trains on eBay, that had belonged to my father, and included in them are some of the catalogs he’d ordered from including a Tyco 1972-73 and several Fleischmanns. On the back page of the Tyco the description accompanying the photo for the Super Road and Rail ( a combination slot car and train set up) “Two complete sets in one!”.  The inside cover of the Fleischmann catalog from 1973 has this:C8559C02-A54A-48AF-A613-B5A9C471B353_1_201_a

For the curious, if my Google Translate is doing it’s thing correctly, here is the translation (for my Canadian and French-speaking friends, please correct any mistakes!).

Hey! Friends! Embark and take a seat on a dream trip through the Hobby Kingdom. This is what is Extraordinary at FLEISCHMANN! You realize every moment that all fabrications are the result of a fundamental principle of precision, a constant study of quality and a continual tendency towards perfection. Everything matches and everything adapts, which is why the name “FLEISCHMANN” is the best guarantee for your confidence in a quality article. FLEISCHMANN is your protector against boredom! Whether you only have a few minutes or several hours! With FLEISCHMANN you have a permanent passport for permanent fun, which is why we wish you “Bon Voyage”. Sale to the consumer is only through retail stores. We will be happy to give you the addresses of our dealers. and rights reserved. By the publication of this catalog, all previous catalogs and current prices are canceled. – All modifications Printed in Germany INN 8.73 Ho Any advice will be gladly given to you by your retailer.”

Next time you’re at the store, or even shopping online, look at the labels of things and see if you notice it. Once we started looking, it was goofy how many we found in a single grocery trip.

By now you’re probably starting to wonder, what in the world does F. Scott Fitzgerald, that great literary genius of “The Great Gatsby” fame, have to do with exclamation points and grocery stores? The answer is quite a bit, actually. He once said this, and it’s rather apt:

“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”

I have to admit, I wholeheartedly agree.

You Want More of This…?

As we move closer to election day, we continue to hear more alarming things come out of Trump’s mouth on an almost daily basis. He’s setting the stage for a coup, to enable himself to become the dictator of the Trumpian States of America. Amazingly, there are people who believe this is a fine idea, because why not? These last four years have been a grand ride, why not do this all the time?

Folks, you really aren’t seeing the long view, are you? Once one piece of our Constitution is broken, it all can go. We are guaranteed to have free and fair elections, and a peaceful transfer of power. If Trump removes that and declares himself the winner either by having the senators determine the electoral vote, or simply by not leaving, then what is to stop him from telling us the rest of the Constitution is null and void as well?  You know all the screaming you’ve done about having your 2nd Amendment rights violated, and that a candidate from the Democratic party is infringing on that? Or how awful you think ‘Obamacare’ or the ACA is? Or what about the fact that you’ve been able to speak up at all? If you haven’t thought about that, well, now is the time.

All you need do is look around you at life under other dictators, and it’s pretty easy to see that what you think of as being a pleasure cruise, will become just another nightmare. Gun rights? Gone. That freedom to speak your mind, travel where you want to and stand in front of a government building, throwing fire bombs, smoke bombs or just f-bombs? Gone. (Not that those were good ideas in the first place.) Want to work where you want to, or do what you want to? Gone. Don’t think the rules of the ACA are right, or that it should even exist at all? Then I imagine you’ll love government run Trumpcare, which will determine what benefits you have, and how much money is allocated for those benefits. If they don’t put enough money toward it because this year Trump doesn’t want to, then either you pony up out of pocket, or you just don’t get that medicine because you aren’t allowed to. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you’re on the side of anarchy now, doesn’t mean you get any kind of a pass later. No, you’ll just be Citizen No. 12657390. Just as likely – perhaps more so – to get tossed in jail for activities against the state. Think not? Check these out…

Gun laws in Dictatorships

Russia: According to the Library of Congress, “Individuals are not allowed to carry guns acquired for self-defense; a license only serves as a carrying permit for hunting and sport firearms when these guns need to be transported. Russian citizens may not own guns that shoot in bursts or have magazines with more than a ten-cartridge capacity.”

In North Korea, the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law.

In China, Civilian ownership of firearms is largely restricted to non-individual entities such as sporting organizations, hunting reserves, and wildlife protection, management and research organizations. The chief exception to the general ban for individual gun ownership is for the purpose of hunting.

Cuba: In Cuba, the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law, and civilians are not allowed to possess pen guns, cane rifles, rifles with a calibre greater than 5.6 millimeters, machine and sub-machine guns of any kind, home-made firearms, shortened shotguns, firearms that have been modified with devices to make them more efficient, and certain types of ammunition. Private possession of fully automatic weapons is prohibited, and handguns (pistols and revolvers) are permitted under license. Civilian possession of rifles and shotguns is regulated by law.

Healthcare

Russia does guarantee free health care, 48% of expenditures comes from government sources which primarily come from medical insurance deductions from salaries. While there appears to be private insurance there, the state insurance improved during the 90’s and 2000’s to be very competitive, then it’s quality significantly declined. Due to the Russian financial crisis since 2014, major cuts in health spending have resulted in a decline in the quality of service of the state healthcare system. About 40% of basic medical facilities have fewer staff than they are supposed to have, with others being closed down. Waiting periods for treatment have increased, and patients have been forced to pay for more services that were previously free.

In China, about 95% of the population has at least basic health insurance coverage. Despite this, public health insurance generally only covers about half of medical costs, with the proportion lower for serious or chronic illnesses. In urban areas, insurance isn’t free either. And in rural areas where it is, the quality of care varies widely.

North Korea claims to provide universal health care with a national medical service and health insurance system. North Korea claims that health services are offered for free. However, this claim has been contrasted by North Korean defectors, who claim that patients must in fact pay for health services, that the upper classes have access to a higher standard of healthcare than ordinary ones do, and that “how much money a patient has determines whether they live or die”.

Cuba’s national health system is made up of multiple tiers: 1) the community containing individuals and families, 2) family doctor-and-nurse teams, 3) basic work teams, 4) community polyclinics, 5) hospitals, and 6) medical institutes. The Family Physician and Nurse program is made up of physician and nurse teams that serve individuals, families, and their communities. Polyclinics are community-based clinics that house primary care specialists, and exist in every Cuban community. While preventive medical care, diagnostic tests and medication for hospitalized patients are free, some aspects of healthcare are paid for by the patient

Freedom of Speech

Cuba: The Cuban constitution recognizes the freedom of the press, and prohibits private ownership of the media. “Only 25 percent of Cubans use the internet, while only five percent of homes are connected”, making it one of the Americas’ least-connected countries. The Internet is censored; a number of websites are blocked, and access to information is scarce.North Korea: Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and nations such as the United States have asserted that, in practice, there is no right to free speech, and the only media providers that are deemed legal are those operated by the government.

China: The only people in China who can publish criticisms of, or opinions contrary to those of, the Communist Party, are senior members of the Communist Party. Academics and editors of China’s state-controlled publications are afforded somewhat less leeway than Party officials, but still more than the average person.

Russia: In 2019 Russia introduced new regulation commonly called “fake news law” which criminalizes publications containing “unreliable” information as well as opinions that show “disrespect for society, government, state symbols, the constitution and government institutions”. The law was criticized for vague wording allowing selective application e.g. against political opposition. Since 2009, the practice of the law enforcement agencies (most notably FSB) was to abuse newly introduced anti-extremism laws to suppress freedom of speech, including corruption investigations. On 31 March 2013, The New York Times reported that Russia was beginning ‘Selectively Blocking [the] Internet’.

That’s a glimpse of life under Trump as ‘president’ for life here. So, all those ‘rights’ you keep harping on, well, don’t worry, you won’t have them because we won’t have a Constitution. No Constitution, no rights. And if you think it can’t happen here, think again. He’s already trying to set the stage, with declaring the media “enemies of the government”, and “fake news” (hmm, look familiar?), telling us what he wants us to know around COVID-19, hiding his tax returns, installing his family and flunkies in positions of authority, and making us all question each other. It’s not too late to keep it from happening.

Vote on November 3.

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Why Dan Patrick (and the GOP) Are Wrong

I heard Texas Lt Governor Dan Patrick say something a while back on a news bite that made me stop in my tracks.

“There is no reason — capital N, capital O — no reason that anyone under 65 should be able to say I am afraid to go vote,” Patrick, a Republican, said in an interview with Fox News. “Have they been to a grocery store? Have they been to Walmart? Have they been to Lowe’s? Have they been to Home Depot? Have they been anywhere? Have they been afraid to go out of their house? This is a scam by the Democrats to steal the election.”

What? Is he serious? Unfortunately, he was. And he’s dead wrong too.Screen Shot 2020-06-06 at 6.49.13 AM

There are many reasons why people under the age of 65 are afraid to go and vote with a pandemic. Anyone with a compromised or suppressed immune system is at very high risk of catching – and dying from – coronavirus. Their immune systems are just not able to fight off infections, either because the disease they have has made their body not able to fight off infections or because they are taking some kind of medication that has chemically suppressed their immune system. This could include people with different types of cancers either because of the disease, or because they are receiving chemotherapy, anyone who has HIV or AIDS, and anyone that has received an organ transplant. It could also include some people with psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis, because some of the medication they take suppress the immune system as well. Heart disease? Check. Lung diseases like cystic fibrosis? Check. Crohn’s disease, having your spleen removed, bone marrow ablation, genetic immunodeficiency, diabetes and chronic kidney disease are also on the list. Guess what Mr. Patrick? All of those affect individuals of all ages.

Add to the group above everyone in their households, because if a spouse, significant other, child or parent brings home the virus, then the immunocompromised person could get it from them, and if they do, they will probably die because their immune system is unable to fight off infections. For some of them even a common cold means the risk of pneumonia, and getting a flu shot each year is critical. So, when coronavirus became a “thing”, and the CDC said “wash your hands”, they did. When the CDC said “wear a mask”, they did that too. And when their medical providers said “it’s not safe for you to work and be around so many people”, they either quit or took a leave of absence and thanked God for unemployment (if they had a state that wasn’t a complete cluster about it) and the stimulus.

How do I know this?  My husband was blessed 29 years ago with a kidney transplant, making our household one that is immunocompromised, thus we take many precautions to keep him safe. We wash our hands – a lot. We wear masks if we go out, and use hand sanitizer. I wipe down the groceries before they come in the house, and as a rule, I don’t go shopping for them in the store. I order them online, then go through the drive though that my grocery store offers and have the loaded in my vehicle. I order everything I possibly can online, trying to respect the delivery folks as much as possible by bundling my orders up and having a single delivery day. Neither of us has had a professional haircut in months (I’ve learned to cut my husband’s hair, and it actually doesn’t look too bad!), unlike you Mr. Patrick, who is freshly shorn by a stylist. I no longer enjoy luxuries I used to indulge in because they aren’t safe, like manicures or dining out. I wipe down surfaces in our home with bleach, as well as my car on the few occasions I do go out. I’ve seen my mother four times since March, and made her wear a mask each time. We do still attend church, but online. I will admit having gone to Home Depot but I don’t wander the aisles. I order what I need ahead of time when I can and have it waiting for me at customer service so I can get in and get out or have a plan so I am in and out quickly.

Now, maybe they don’t have these problems down in Texas, with folks getting sick or needing dialysis and transplants, or maybe Mr. Patrick, like so many members of the GOP is just so out of touch with real people and real problems that he’s just clueless to the realities of life. Of course, we’re now learning there is a third option, which is the public message they say on camera or through their Twitter feed, and the private message when they think few are listening. I suspect he knows the truth even if he won’t admit it publicly, and there isn’t one single thing he – or anyone else – can say to me to convince me to take risks that would endanger my husband’s life.

We’re under the age of 65 in this household, and have plenty of reason to NOT vote in person, Mr. Patrick. (And if you live in the Washington, DC area, as we learned this week you might have some new reasons for not voting in person, as POTUS and FLOTUS mutual COVID -19 diagnoses are the gift that keeps on giving.) Fortunately for us, we live in a progressive state that allows absentee voting without an excuse, and we are exercising that right. Neither you, your ignorance not your great desire to align with a man who believes that  herd mentality will save us, are going to put that at risk. And contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence of any kind that mailing in your ballot promotes voter fraud.

Note: Your vote counts. To find out if you can vote absentee in your state, and what the rule are, go to  Vote.org. If you are concerned, like many of us are, about Louis DeJoy and the efforts he has undertaken to undermine the ability of the USPS to deliver your vote on time, please look to see if there is a location near you in your county with a drop box for your ballot. In ours, there are a number of them where ballots can be dropped beginning weeks before the election, so we don’t need to rely on the post office. If you live in Texas, you won’t be so lucky as the governor there has restricted drop offs to one location per county.

Vote. It could be your last chance.

 

 

Thank You For Your Service

For the past 18 months, I’ve had the incredible honor of working in a role that supports members of the military and their families. Like many of you, I know that when you serve in the military, you might be stationed overseas, your spouse might be deployed not once or twice but multiple times and that while challenging, the benefits in serving are great. In spite of having family members who have served in the military as well as a number of friends and even a neighbor or two (thank you for your service, Uncle Denny, Uncle Al, Tim, Mark, Mary, Dave “Superstar!”, Stephanie, Bob and many others) and having a great uncle who was MIA in WWII and never came home, I never really appreciated what that meant before this job.

These people – the active duty members of the military and their families – sacrifice more than any of us can imagine. They miss birthdays, holidays, first steps, first communions, last days of school and last days of life. If stationed stateside and working in support roles, they might be fortunate enough to see their families every day, and are home for dinner. If they’re stationed what is referred to as OCONUS (Outside of the CONtinental US) then consider that the family packed up what they had and moved, perhaps for the umpteenth time, to a country where they may not speak the language and settle into a house that is probably not new, with appliances, fixtures and carpeting that have perhaps seen better days and no option to replace them because they’re living in military housing. They have to find an English language school for their kids, doctors, places to shop and then just about the time they get it all figured out, they have to pack up and do it again. For those that are deployed, family stays behind while the soldier is serving somewhere around the world, perhaps in a place that the family can’t even know about. When they can call home, they might be limited on the number of minutes allowed for the call and have to call at odd times of the day depending on where they are at, just to make up the time difference to call at normal times for their families. They do this without complaining and with amazing grace and dignity.

They are in service to our country. Think about what that means for a moment. They do what they do, so we can walk freely, speak freely, love freely. They keep us and our democracy safe. It’s selfless, the stress is unbelievable, and when they are serving in places like Afghanistan, Iraq or Kandahar, they don’t know if they’ll come home and hug their spouse or kids, their kids, in a coffin, or at all. I heard retired Major General Paul Eaton speak on TV two nights ago, and he said “our solders are taught to trust their commanders, to go where they are told and to fight for their country without question, because they trust that no matter what, their country will bring them home.” His voice was so full of passion and emotion, it was almost overwhelming to hear. Click here and watch his message on Twitter, and to see his interview with Rachel Maddow, click here. (The link goes to YouTube, the first part is an equally powerful interview with a Gold Star mother, and well worth watching. Eaton’s interview begins around the 12:50 mark.)

We are lucky here in the US. When we have an emergency, we can call 9-1-1 from any phone and help will come. If you call from a landline, they’ll even know your location without being told (unfortunately, that technology doesn’t exist with cell phones, so make sure to provide a location when calling from a cell phone.) When the military and their families are overseas, and an emergency arises, if they need an ambulance they may not be able to simply call 9-1-1 because not all countries have that. Some countries have other emergency codes, some have none at all. Imagine being in a country where you don’t speak the language, and have no way to pick up the phone and call to get an ambulance when you need one. How would you handle it?

I have no frame of reference what it would be like in combat, but would imagine it’s terrifying, regardless of how much training you’ve received, never knowing if the next step results in stepping on a hidden trigger device, or if you’re in the crosshairs of a gun and all the while having the sound of constant bombardment everywhere, day and night. How long would you last? Are you willing to put on battle fatigues, learn to follow orders without question, pick up a gun, and do what you’re told in cold, ice, snow, rain, sand, and desert heat, combined with unrelenting noise all the time, constant shelling and bombs everywhere?

My respect for the military  and their families is beyond what I can put into words, and it is my greatest honor to be in a role where I can continue working with nurses who support and help them every day. We try to make life just a little less difficult for them and from the comments I see and hear I know we are successful in doing that. This week, hearing Donald Trump call those in our military who were wounded, or didn’t come home “suckers” and “losers” makes me sick to my stomach and angry. Our military and their families do NOT deserve to be disrespected and invalidated like that.  A commander-in-chief who, according to a report in Vanity Fair

In one account, the president told senior advisers that he didn’t understand why the U.S. government placed such value on finding soldiers missing in action because they had performed poorly and gotten caught and deserved what they got, according to a person familiar with the discussion.

His disdain for our military is such that he and first wife Ivana said if their kids joined the military they would be “disowned in a second.” Let that sink in for a moment. Their message wasn’t “we don’t want you to do this because we’re afraid something will happen to you”, it was “we think so little of the military that we will kick you out of this family and it’s money if you become a part of it”. This is who you want leading your troops?

My grandmother watched every day at her kitchen window for years, hoping that would be the day she would see her baby brother come home from WWII. It wasn’t until many years later that she learned he had died in France, and how. We’ve never recovered his remains, and in the last year my mom started working with an agency that matches DNA to unidentified remains still there, in hopes we may still be able to bring him home. Mr. Trump, my Uncle Ches was NOT a sucker or a loser. He was a young man who unlike you, believed in serving his country and defending her against ALL enemies, foreign and domestic. He did so with honor, and yes, he, along with all the others who remain missing, deserve to come home and be buried on US soil.

One of our greatest gifts as a democracy is belonging to any political party we want to and then exercising our right to vote for our candidate of choice and to do so in private. That means you never need tell anyone who you voted for. (This is HUGE!)  However part of being a responsible voter is to evaluate what a candidate stands for, regardless of their party and vote for them based on their platform. What is their record? What have they done, not just what do they say? It’s not only OK to belong to one party and vote another, it’s acceptable, even responsible. You’ve already heard the phrase “Country over party” many times these last 4 years, and it means more now than ever. Please, regardless of the party you are affiliated with as a registered voter, vote for someone who respects and supports our military troops. If you aren’t a registered voter, please get registered. If you’re worried about voting with COVID, go to Vote.org and find out how you can vote absentee in your state. (Whatever you do, don’t try to vote absentee and then in person. It’s probably a felony in your state. )

It’s that important.

The Great Minnesota Stay Apart

 

Well kids, it’s that time of year again in Minnesota,  time to be thinking about putting away the white shoes (can’t wear ’em after Labor Day, you know!), stocking up on pens, pencils and getting the kiddos back to school and most of all, the Minnesota State Fair – except for this year. 

Here in Minnesota, our state fair is almost a state holiday, and today would have been opening day. It’s so iconic that all we have to do is refer to it as “The Great Minnesota Get Together” and everyone knows what we’re talking about. The people watching! The shows! The food! The dairy barn! The midway! It’s all there, no matter who you are and what you enjoy for interests and hobbies. Unless you are genuinely afraid of crowds, the fair is one of the biggest parties of the year. While Texas is technically the largest state fair in the country with 2.25 million visitors each year, I would argue that Minnesota is the clear winner. Consider this: Sure, Texas has more visitors, but it takes them 24 days to get all those folks. We hit 2 million in 10 days last year. And Fair Park, where the Texas State Fair is held is ONLY 277 acres, compared to our 322 acres. So by both physical size and daily attendance, we are the largest. 

I think most Minnesotans (and nearby Wisconsinites and Iowans) are in mourning with the cancellation of the fair this year. There is an an event coming up where folks had a chance to get tickets for a “State Fair Food Parade” and get some of the fair food like donuts, cheese curds, french fries and lots of other wonderful fair foods. Tickets were $20, and the plan is that you drive in to a proscribed route and purchase what you want. Apparently the site to buy the tickets crashed, it was so popular, and the event was completely sold out in something like 30 minutes. I’m about ready to go out and buy a deep fryer, just to make my own cheese curds and mini donuts. My husband and I go to the fair every year, and yep, each of us have our usual food favorites including spaghetti on a stick (mine), cheese curds (his) and Sweet Martha’s Cookies (ours).

What? You say you’ve never had Sweet Martha’s Cookies? Gosh, I don’t know what to tell you except they are kind of an out of this world experience. Imagine feeling tired and weary, having been on your feet all day.

 

Now get a plastic bucket about 8″ across and 6″ deep heaping with fresh, still-warm-from-the-oven soft chocolate chip cookies and a glass of cold milk. There isn’t anything better. (And when I say heaping, I’m SO not kidding. The workers pile the cookies in the bucket while you watch, and keep piling them until no more can be added without the next cookie falling off. Only then do they quit, giving you the lid to your bucket on the side. So of course you must eat some before you can put the lid on to head home!

We also love our people watching. We’ve seen just about every combination of attire, hair and makeup that you can imagine. I’m talking about guys in women’s clothes (but more like they just came from dress rehearsal for a really weird play) or women in guys outfits or someone dug in their mom’s closet and pulled out an outfit from 1967 and thought “hey, this will get attention” and put it on! Then there is the blue, purple and green hair, sometimes all three on the same person! It is so much fun to get a glass of cold lemonade and some finger food, find a bench to sit on near the grandstand and just watch people. Then there is the music, which is all day long at the fair, much of it free. With several different stages located throughout the park, and a variety of musical acts booked, virtually all tastes can be satisfied. Polka, rock, country, kids, Christian…it’s all there. About 10 years ago we were walking around one evening after dark and hear this woman singing on one of the free stages. Her voice was beautiful, absolutely haunting. We sat down on the grass and listened to her, and she was wonderful. She talked about how she really loved to visit here because her grandparents were from here so she had really good memories of Minnesota. Her songs were fantastic and we knew we were hearing someone that was on the edge of a career really getting started. We bought her CD – The Story – and  I doubt you’ll find Brandi Carlisle giving free concerts now ANYWHERE, but it sure was great being at that one.

I’m sad we can’t be at the fair this year. I understand it, and am completely in agreement with the decision to not have one this year, but like most of our state, it just doesn’t seem like the end of summer without the fair. I look forward to our traditions like going to the DNR building to watch the fish pond, or climbing the fire tower to look out over the fairgrounds. If I’m really lucky, I’m there the same day as either my niece or nephew and can meet up with them in the beer gardens. Last year my nephew’s girlfriend was there and spent a little time with us, which was wonderful. We even ran into my niece unexpectedly outside the food court – 200,000 of your closest friends roaming around 300 acres, and she spots me from a few yards off! What a lovely and unexpected surprise.

I hope by this time next year we’re all returning to our traditions, they’re so special, and maybe I’ll get to surprise my niece, her husband and their new baby next time. 

 

 

Things Mom Never Told You

I think it’s a tradition that a long holiday weekend is made for tackling house projects, right? Going with that theme, we decided to undertake one that had been in our minds for a long time, which was repainting the outside of our front door. The previous owners had this thing about brown…everything in this house was either dark brown or baby poop brown. We’ve been trying to get everything inside painted and made less depressing for years and finally finished that up 2 years ago. It was time for the exterior of the front door to get a face lift.

As you can see, the paint was faded, and badly cracked and if you look closely you can even see where they had painted the old hardware purple, then scraped it off again with God only knows what, because if you have to remove it why would you bother with something like acetone that can get into the nooks and crannies? FF191DB3-4815-415D-AE47-F2B216B4DCE8Nah, just scrape and scratch and hope for the best, right? Don’t tape anything off either, like the bottom weather stripping, just paint right over it. Sigh. In any case, we’d lived with it for 8 years which was about 7.5 years too long. With a long holiday weekend looming, we had plenty of ambition to get us started.

We thought we would start first thing on Friday morning, put stripper on the door, and with a little luck we’d be painting by late in the day, have the door back on maybe by midnight? Unbeknownst to us, however, the door didn’t have a single layer of paint; counting the original primer, it had 5! Factor in that our door faces SW, and in the winter we have a glass panel in the screen door so the sun beating through it makes that door so hot you can’t even touch it, and all that paint was absolutely baked on over the years.

It took us 2 solid days of stripping, scraping, stripping, scraping etc., in the garage, to get those 5 layers off. Yeah, it’s funny now, but no one tells you when you start these projects “DO NOT START WHEN IT’S 95 DEGREES AND 70% HUMIDITY – FOR THE NEXT 3 DAYS!”.  It was miserable, but of course once you start, well, you know the old saying “in for a penny, in for a pound”. We put a huge piece of cardboard over our front door to seal it up and keep the house cool, and while effective it certainly wasn’t secure, so we also slept on our living room sofa sleeper for 4 nights because we didn’t feel comfortable being too far from a basically open doorway. After that I am really glad we also have a guest bed for guests to sleep on and the sleeper is a backup plan.

I’m sure that the citrus strippers really are the better and safer way to go for this kind of thing but honestly, the amount of time it took, I almost wonder if a product like the old Zip Strip wouldn’t have been faster. Certainly more toxic, but faster would have been better. And when it was finally all free of paint and down to bare metal, it needed to be wiped clean with mineral spirits, and then re-primed, which started another whole level of learning.

Did you know you can’t prime bare metal with regular primer? Nope, you need to use primer for clean metal, which is an epoxy primer and needs to dry for 24 hours in a very well-ventilated area. Well I guess the garage met that criteria, but here’s the dilemma. If you leave the doors open, you get dust and other schumtz flying around and possibly sticking on the fresh primer and paint. If you close the doors in 95 degrees and 70% humidity, eliminating ANY chance of air movement? ARGH!! (Smacking head on wall.) Then it was FINALLY time to paint it, and it was beautiful. To be safe we let the paint dry a day and a half before putting the new hardware on and putting the door in place.

The Big RevealBB079B48-2376-4C24-809B-1524BBDD6882

I feel like this color is perfect for us!! I look at it and feel like I’m down island somewhere. We are now the ones that people will say “you’ll know their house by the front door. Trust me.” I love that. It’s fun, cheerful, inviting and oh so welcoming, which is truly how we want you to feel here.

Unfortunately, now that the main door looks so great, it makes me see all the flaws in the screen door, so I’m pretty sure that new hardware isn’t too far behind for that, and maybe even a coat of fresh white paint too. Oh yeah, and paint on the wood trim around the door, and…

It never quits.

Never Have I Ever…

I always have enjoyed hearing celebrities play this game, never more than when I heard Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart comparing what they have and haven’t done. But I never thought in my lifetime I’d be living in my own episode of “Never Have I Ever”.

I’ve never lived through a pandemic (OK technically I STILL haven’t lived THROUGH it, given that we’re still in the middle of it) so I probably should amend it to I’ve never experienced a pandemic before.

I’ve never seen such careless disregard for other humans.

I’ve never seen so much animosity and hatred over what makes us different from each other.

I’ve never seen my city on fire, and experienced a curfew (as an adult) before that first week in June

I’d never been so afraid before.

That was a rough week, from wondering when the other shoe will drop with COVID, to watching peaceful demonstrations turn into riots, looting and mayhem. I don’t know why I continue to be surprised at how people behave. I try to avoid going to stores as much as I can, and when I am out in public, the number of people that don’t wear masks, that get just too close, boggle the mind. Yeah, I know, there are a lot of folks out there that think COVID is a hoax. All I can say is, well if I’m wrong and it is a hoax, then the worst thing that happens is that I look silly.  But if THEY’RE wrong, and it isn’t a hoax? They’re putting themselves, their family members, neighbors, co-workers, and strangers all at risk. Why? Why is it so important to be right about this? Is it worth dying for?

It’s not just about not wearing masks, either. The rotten behaviors that I read about that are so extreme are just NUTS. People who spit on others just to “give them COVID”, or go and open ice cream in a store and lick it, just to spread the germs, or deliberately cough in people’s faces. It goes on and on and on. Those morons are just making it that much harder for everyone else, like our front-line health care workers. I have a niece who is just beginning the second year of her residency at a busy Level 1 trauma center, and every shift she is at work means another day of risk for her, as they are short on the critically needed personal protective equipment. Anyone else wonder where the hell the millions of masks that 3M was turning out every day have ended up? I know where they are not…and my best friend was just exposed through her job so we had that to worry about too, although she’s fine.

If those weren’t enough – and they were – we were brutally reminded of how far we have yet to go in eliminating racism. Living where we do, we’re pretty insulated so it’s easy to forget that it hasn’t disappeared from our country until something ugly happens, like the neo-nazi rallies that periodically pop up, or when a certain member of congress (who just lost his primary race, I might add and not a moment too soon) that lives in a neighboring state repeatedly makes racist and white supremacist comments. The events of the last several weeks, however, have been so powerful and painful that I suspect they’ll result in “where were you when…” conversations. “Where were you when you learned George Floyd had been killed” “Where were you when you saw the video”? “Where were you when the demonstrations started”? and “Where were you when the riots started and Minneapolis went up in flames?”

Along with thousands, I watched the video of George Floyd’s last moments with horror and unbelievable sadness. I can’t imagine what those former officers were thinking, what went wrong in their twisted logic that allowed them to think this was acceptable. It’s NEVER ok to do that, never, never, never. Derek Chauvin has been charged with 2nd degree murder, which in Minnesota is defined in part as “Whoever… causes the death of a human being without intent to effect the death of any person, while intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon the victim, when the perpetrator is restrained under an order for protection and the victim is a person designated to receive protection under the order.”   (MN Statute 609.19).  So would a reasonable person, watching that video, think that Derek Chauvin fit that description? Yup.

The delay in arresting him, and further delays in arresting anyone else, changed a time of peaceful protests to rioting, looting and arson fires. And not just any old thing was set on fire, either. The first night it was the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct station house, along with many nearby businesses. The next night, the 5th Precinct. By the third night, the National Guard had been called out, along with more reinforcements and we sat home in fear and sadness, having no idea of what was going to happen from one minute to the next.

It took nearly a week before things really calmed down, but they’ll never be normal. Maybe that’s OK though. Maybe we’ll come out better on the other side, less worrying about someone’s color and more about what they demonstrate about their character. After all, what’s the definition of character? It’s what you do when no one is looking. So how about if we all act like we can’t see what someone LOOKS like, and we can only see what they are DOING.

I bet we’d meet some really cool people that way.

Black and Brown Lives Matter.

 

 

The Great Refrigerator Adventure

As I mentioned in a recent post, we’ve been updating the kitchen appliances, and decided it was time to replace the fridge when it appeared it was possessed. We had a side-by-side that was 18 years old, and it had been repaired a couple of times already. The last time he was here, the repairman said to me “don’t spend money repairing it again, it’s not worth it. You’ve already sunk more into it that it would cost to buy a new one.” Hoookay.

So I became aware of this apparent “possession” when I would open the door to work on a meal and notice things were frozen on the fridge side – things that shouldn’t be, like lettuce, liquids or even eggs. I would look at the temperature dial and it would be on the coldest setting, and I would then ask hubby why he’d done that, whereupon he’d reply he hadn’t, and I’d say “well someone did” and we’d blame the cat that suddenly developed opposable digits. After about the 4th time this happened  and we took turns having fun blaming each other before we blamed the cat, we figured it was time to just kill the fridge and get a new one. We’d been thinking about this for some time already, and because we had a limited space to work in (without using a reciprocating saw and/or moving cabinets) the choices we had were limited, particularly since I had specific features I really wanted.

Looking online we found a scratch and dent in the model we wanted – a beautiful Samsung with French doors, the variable temp drawer and bottom freezer. It was in a town about 50 miles away and the salesman was kind enough to text photos to us of the scratches and dents, and we were confident our magnet collection would cover them, so we bought it and arranged for delivery.

It came on January 20, and I was SO excited. I had waited so LONG for the fridge. It was big, and sleek and gorgeous. Yes, it had some dings, but like I said, our magnets hid them, and we had it set up in no time. That evening we were getting everything organized and 24 hours later we had ice cubes from the dispenser. Life was good. I got it connected to the Samsung SmartThings app, which, among other things will alert you if your kids or spouse leaves the door open on the fridge.

On Monday, January 26 that’s when it all went to hell. The SmartThings app gave me an alert, telling me that the freezer compartment was too warm, and there was water on the floor, in the fridge, and the frozen veggies were melted. My first thought was an ice cube got stuck in the chute but then we realized the fridge was also warm. We tried to reset everything a few times without success and the next day called customer service at the store. They said they couldn’t come out until Friday, so we then called Samsung directly who said they would have someone there on Thursday. Well that guy tried everything, and couldn’t fix it. He set up ANOTHER call for the following Tuesday with another colleague to try replacing the compressor.

Keep in mind, it’s the end of January. In Minnesota. We are living out of 4 coolers in our garage. I know, I know, everyone is thinking “but it’s cold in Minnesota, right? So you don’t need ice for the coolers, that’s a good thing”. And you’d be right…except when it’s below zero and you have to go to the coolers MANY times a day for every little thing. Milk, ice cubes, butter, eggs, condiments. That good thing becomes a not so good thing really fast.

Tuesday comes, repair dude tries replacing the compressor and that doesn’t work. Now he’s getting concerned and calls Samsung to get permission to cut the lines open, which they do. I’ll bet most of you didn’t know that your refrigerator has some sort of system to dry the air in it and keep it fresh. Well it does, and our Samsung used silicone beads to do this. They are normally white or light gray in color, but when the guy cut the line and pulled out the container they were in, they looked like this:

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Yuck! Yeah, that’s not how they ought to look. That’s what happens when the fridge is tipped over on it’s side or back, and oil leaks and contaminates the entire system, and at that point your fridge is ruined. He sent a photo to Samsung, who agreed (in principle) it was toast. (One interesting thing that the repair guy did mention is that he sees this happen a lot with the units that come from Korea, not so much with the ones from Mexico, making him think it might be an issue on the cargo ships with loading or unloading.) Getting it formally approved for warranty replacement however, took about another 10 days and multiple phone calls.

Once that happened, I called the store we bought it from, got the store manager involved, and had to do some finagling to arrange for a replacement but eventually got that squared away as well. By the time we had agreed to have a new one sent out, it was February 10. Unfortunately the manager called me back a few hours later to tell me that they didn’t have it in the warehouse and it would need to be special ordered, which should take about a week. Fine.

A week goes by, and he calls again, full of apologies, because apparently 3 other folks have had issues with this fridge and also needed to replace it, and the damn thing is on BACK ORDER, and we have no idea when it will be in. He was also kind enough to be sensitive to how long we had already lived out of coolers, and said “this has gone on long enough, I’ve arranged to have a loaner refrigerator delivered to you.” A loaner? Who knew that was even a thing? That arrived about February 17, and we’ve been grateful ever since to have it.

So remember what I said about the replacement on backorder? I’m guessing it may need to come from Korea, and I really have no idea when it might happen, since we have this tiny little complication called coronavirus…

But we’ve got the loaner, and life is OK.

Update: I started writing this weeks ago, and realized I’d never posted it. Guess what? The new fridge arrives today!! Let’s hope it lasts longer than 6 days this time.

The Urge…to Purge

I got another wild hair recently, and I think it was inspired by potential future shame, which I decided I wanted to avoid. Over the past couple of months, we’ve been replacing our kitchen appliances, and are now (almost) down to just the stove. I say almost, because the misadventures of replacing our refrigerator are not yet complete – but that’s a whole separate post. I really want to replace the current electric stove with a gas stove, but that will require a bit of preparation, namely running a gas line through our crawl space and up into the kitchen. While we’re lucky enough to have someone that can help us with that, I knew something needed to be done about the crawl space when I realized I was almost hyperventilating every time I thought about our friend coming over to just give us the estimate.
So, the first step was to get inside and take stock of what needed to be done down there. It’s one thing to store your ‘treasures’ and know where they are so you can get to them when needed; it’s entirely another to view with a critical eye and ask yourself how you can reorganize them. As I did the latter, I realized there was going to be no reorganizing without some serious purging, and with that, the anxiety level shot up through the roof! How could I possibly part with that nasty, stained down pillow that doesn’t come clean? The things from high school I’ve saved for God only knows what reason. A cross stitch project that I started in high school, never finished but dang it, was still in its embroidery hoop (and probably has permanent creases in the fabric.) Funny thing about that one, is that while I have the directions to finishing it, I don’t have the color photo of how it’s supposed to look. I did find a picture of it on the internet though, perhaps I’ll print it out and see if I can find a family member who still does needlework. (Update on that, I learned last night my nephew does. Now if I can just convince him to finish it for me!)
After a few days of looking at what I’d been hanging on to down in that crawl space, I finally decided there was only one way out of the mess: I gave myself permission to have ZERO guilt about whatever I tossed out. None. Zip, zilch, de nada. Out went the pillows, some old frames, books, newspaper clippings, extra pots and pans, old Tupperware, and old blankets. I think I filled our garbage bin twice to overflowing. Then I resorted what was left, relabeled bins, moved a few things around and reorganized and suddenly it started to take shape. My husband got into it with me, and has been doing purging of his own as well, which has helped too as he got rid of old stereo cords, cable cords and wiring that we no longer will use.
The next step was to add shelving to the open wall studs on one side of the crawl space, to put small things there like the extra cans of paint we have from house projects as well as create a storage pantry. You know, for all the backup crap we HAD to buy to take us through COVID. The paint had been sitting on the floor of the furnace room, taking up space there, which was silly. Adding the shelves made so much sense, utilizing that space to store stuff out of the way.
It’s felt so amazing to get rid of this unused and unneeded stuff, so I’m really trying to apply the mentality to other rooms in our house too. Since we don’t have kids, it’s our nieces and nephews that will end up cleaning out this crap when we’re gone, and honestly, who wants THAT job? I can hear it now: “Aunt Beth kept what? THAT? Why?” or “What the heck was Uncle Mike thinking?” So, I figure if we can get on top of it now, it saves everyone a headache. (I can already hear my husband saying, “what do you care, you’ll be dead”, and he’s right, but there are some things I will always be concerned with, no matter what.)
For now, however, we declutter, lighten the load, get rid of old stuff that we aren’t using. I did stumble across a box that I hadn’t seen in ages, and opened it wondering what was inside and found an adorable set of tropical fish made of glass that are designed to be in a large vase or bowl of water. Some are attached to a base and a couple float. I have no idea where I got it, but it’s so pretty I’m can’t bear to toss it out. Otherwise if it’s broken, ratty or nasty, why keep it, and if it’s good and we don’t use it, maybe someone else will, so I also take plenty to Goodwill, or sell it on eBay or Craig’s List if it has value. And no, we aren’t going to make a fortune selling anything on eBay, I mean it’s not like we have an original Picasso hiding in the crawl space…or do we? I guess I’ll find out.

Update: I had a request for a photo of the fish. I wish there was a better bowl to display them in, but since we’re living under a “stay at home” order, and who really wants to go shopping now anyway, here’s what I’ve got.085A009F-5154-4CCD-AE48-93405417948A

You Can’t Make This S**T Up

And now, a collection of short vignettes…

Every year my husband and I have a tradition, something we started doing when we were dating that he initially dragged me to nearly kicking and screaming but now I enjoy. Sing it with me…”gotta go to the auto show!” Yes, indeed, it was that time of year again for us to head to the Greater Twin Cities Auto Show, where we look at cars, sit in them and pretend to annoying floor folks that we might be interested in them. Once in a while we get lucky and get a smart one who knows we probably aren’t going to buy one, so we just chat instead, and if we are REALLY lucky, well, we get one like Ben.

I can’t even remember which dealership Ben was at, but my husband and I were looking at the rear space of the car and when he couldn’t get the cargo cover out, I got to show off a little when I figured it out. Of course, I had to gloat a tiny bit and say something lippy like “how do you like me now?” as I tried to figure out where to store the cover once off. It was about then that Ben came up and I think overheard us trying to figure it out, and we started chatting. He mentioned something about seeing weird things at the auto show, and of course I couldn’t let that go and asked him what the weirdest things were that he’s ever seen. Well…

If you ever want to start an interesting conversation, ask someone who travels around the country for their job what the strangest things are that they’ve seen.  It was crazy what he told us, even knowing it didn’t happen here. He said that he caught one couple trying to get lucky in one of the cars once. Seriously? Your idea of a romantic tryst is in a car, in a convention center with a couple thousand of your not-so-closest friends potentially watching? I know some folks get off on voyeurism, or on the thrill of possibly getting caught. That element of risk supposedly heightens something, or so I’ve heard. All I can say to that is “blech”. After hearing that story, I’m going to start washing the clothes I’ve worn there as soon as we’re home, and bringing a travel size hand sanitizer, because what if they WEREN’T caught first before they, um, well, you know…

It seems that not more than a month or two will go by and up pops another story online from one of Meghan Markle’s estranged family members, whining about how she’s so unfair to them and they just want to repair their relationship with her. They just can’t understand why she won’t speak to them. Really? Are you all really that stupid? (The answer from the Magic 8 Ball is “Signs Point to Yes”) You insist on conducting your business in public, when she doesn’t have any personal social media? Here’s a suggestion: Shut the hell up. Stop talking about her to any and all media outlets. You want to prove to her how sincere you are about repairing a relationship? Be quiet and wait it out, and maybe, just maybe, after a few years, she might believe you. Although honestly if it were me, I wouldn’t.

 

 

Speaking of the Magic 8 Ball, here’s some totally useless information for you to tuck away for one of those moments you just simply need to amaze, astound and confound folks. Did you know that the cube inside the ball is an icosahedron, floating in blue-dyed alcohol? That’s a 20-sided cube for you non-nerds out there. 10 of the answers are affirmative, 5 are non-committal and 5 are negative, according to its page on Wikipedia. That page also contains a complete list of all of the responses on those 20 sides, in case you feel like a trip back into your childhood

I noticed something a while back, another article about the entitled Kardashian klan that makes me want to shove bamboo under my fingernails. Kourtney was giving a video tour of her kids $100K technology free “playhouse” they had built for them. My immediate reaction was “what the…”? Spending that much money for a place your kids can’t/don’t bring phones, ipads, play stations, etc is ludicrous. Here’s a technology free playhouse for your kids, Kourtney, that doesn’t cost ANYTHING (I realize this is a new concept for you, but perhaps you could give it a try.) It’s called a backyard. It has trees, flowers, bugs, birds and all kinds of neat things in nature. And if yours doesn’t, perhaps try a public park. There’s your chuckle for the day, folks. A Kardashian in a public park. If that doesn’t bring you giggles, nothing will.