Malaising Grace, How Sweet The Sound

This is my favorite time of year.  The bright colors, the nip in the air – love it.  But it’s also my least favorite time of year.  It’s getting dark earlier every day.   My temper shortens with the days, while discontented feelings multiply.  When the trees lose their leaves, I think of how much of life involves loss.  

Me, myself and I need frequent reminders to count our blessings.

mal·aise: noun mə-lāz, ma-, -lez

1: an indefinite feeling of debility or lack of health often indicative of or accompanying the onset of an illness
2: a vague sense of mental or moral ill-being <a malaise of cynicism and despair — Malcolm Boyd>

*definition courtesy of Merriam-Webster Online

Windmilling on the edge, trying for balance.

I’ve been walking around under a little black cloud lately.
I’m toting around a sack of malaise that sometimes has me teetering on the brink of despair.

Why? Various reasons. The health concerns of beloved family members, setbacks at work, missing my children, angst over the direction our country is taking, etc, etc, etc.

If I’m being honest, a lot of it is self-directed.  I’m concerned with shuffling off of this mortal coil: the wrinkling, sagging, bagging, decay of the body, gaining back much of the weight I  lost, the where-do-I-go-from-here that comes with being how-the-hell-did-I-get-to-be-55-years old.

In short, it’s a mid-life crisis.

How distressingly cliché.

I left my office after work the other day and took my crabby self to a local park hoping a walk would clear the mental cobwebs that were clouding my vision of the world.

I plugged the ear buds into my iPod and started out around the small lake in the park.  After ¼ lap it penetrated my gloom that it was a perfect, early fall day; not cold, not hot. The trees had turned color suddenly, overnight it seemed. We woke up one morning and fall color was here with its intense, fleeting display. I started walking faster.

My favorite song, “Roundabout” , came through my ear buds, filling my head and lifting my spirits.

The sky was still bright at early evening, clear and blue, but the sun had started its descent. It painted the undersides of the clouds pink and made my shadow a stilt-walker, almost touching the lake.

I built up steam, both legs moving faster. My chubby, cellulite-riddled thighs did the bidding of my agile brain without conscious thought, smoothly and easily. My wrinkled, age-freckled hands clenched as I walked, limber and whole. My jiggling, applause arms pumped free and easy. The breath sounded loud in my ears, the way it echoes when you’re wearing headphones.  Not harsh or strained, but forceful; evidence that I was walking strong. My lungs filled and pushed out clear and clean. My heart pumped: ba-da-dum, ba-da-dum, rhythmic, faster. I demanded more and it delivered – no problem.

I have all my Factory Original Equipment, except for two tonsils traded for ice cream in 3rd grade, and one gall bladder traded for pain relief at 40.

All those parts were operating together, if not in perfect harmony, then at least in some semblance of cooperation. This magical, human machine was all systems go and I was in control of it.

55!  A couple hundred years ago, I would have been at the feeble end of life, the oldest crone in the tribe. People would marvel at my great age while setting me adrift on an iceberg with a one-way ticket to Valhalla.  Nowadays, though, I am just in the middle (ish) of life with a long way to go, God willing.

I walked around the lake a second time as fast as I could without running. I strained to use all of my senses to experience my self and the spaces around me and I was filled with contentment. At the same time, I was ashamed.

I did nothing to deserve any of these blessings.  I’m not an especially lousy human being, but neither am I an especially saintly one. There is no rhyme or reason for all the gifts I have. I can’t understand, and I can’t explain. It seems all I can do, the very least I can do, is try to appreciate.

Which brings me to this last part. It’s kind of a prayer.

Dear God,

Thank you for another ordinary, extraordinary day on your Earth. Please help me to appreciate every one of them.



Fall stilt walker

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Take A Bite Out Of Words

Come on along.

Come on along.

I love words; written, spoken, any way they can be served up.  Life offers a veritable smorgasbord of words and I want to sample them all.

I’ve mentioned before that I talk to myself. These are not always full-fledged conversations.  Sometimes I merely blurt out random words. It’s not Tourette’s – I’m trying them on for size.  Lots of words are boring, but some beg to be rolled around on the tongue and savored like fine wine.

Signs are especially tempting. I sampled these interesting specimens on a recent road trip:

Sprinkle Road
Benton Harbor


As much fun to say as to play

The bee-buzz in the middle of Favazolah, the squeaky-crisp delivery of Sprinkle: playing with accents and intonations is music to my ears.

A few years ago, my teeny-tiny niece was really into teeny-tiny toys called Squinkies. As much as she loved playing with them, she also loved saying it. “Squinkies, SQUINKies,” she would sing-song in her teeny-tiny voice as she played.  It made me smile just to listen.

The Phantom Tollbooth was one of my favorite books when I was about 10.  Our hero, Milo, traveled to a magical land and found himself at the Word Market. Vendors sold words, phrases or individual letters à la carte. Milo sampled tangy Qs, crispy, crunchy Ks, and a dry and dusty F.  I used to dream of hopping into Milo’s little car and going with him to the Word Market.

In a way, I guess that’s what I’m doing.

It is possible, however, to get carried away with word-tasting and veer off the path from eccentric into annoying territory. If I think I might be heading in that direction, I remember this scene from “Forget Paris” and scale back.

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Gimme A Steaming Mug of Sodium Caseinate


The interwebz is where people go to engage in thought-provoking, passionate debate on important topics of the day.

But not the people I know.

At this time of year, our minds are consumed by the issue of pumpkin flavored coffee. Which reminds me of this post from a couple of years ago….

For the coffee lover, fall is the best of times. That’s when we get the yummiest flavored coffees. Rich pumpkin, deep chocolate notes, earthy wafts of cinnamon spice all beckon from grocery store and specialty shop shelves. “Drink Me,” they say. “Drink and be warmed and soothed by my rich, roasted goodness.”

I was pretty stoked to select a bottle of Pumpkin Spice coffee creamer to begin this season of caffeinated revelry.

As I stirred the creamer into my cup of joe, I admired the packaging. A silhouette of cows, tractor and barn on the front hinted at the production facilities used by the manufacturer, Friendly Farms.

Then I turned the bottle around to the ingredients. Apparently, what with the bad economy and all, Farmer Friendly has had to take a job at the local chemical plant.

Here’s the rundown of ingredients in the “cream”:

Water, sugar, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, less than 2% sodium caseinate (A milk derivative*) dipotassium phosphate, disodium phosphate, mono and diglycerides, natural and artificial flavors, cellulose gel, cellulose gum, color added, carrageenan. Not a source of lactose.

And in tiny print at the end: “Contains: Milk.” Really? Where? Oh, you mean the less than 2% milk derivative. I should have known. How many times have my kids come running into the kitchen as I’m removing a batch of warm cookies from the oven and pleaded, “Mom, can we have some cookies and sodium caseinate, a milk derivative?” “OK kids,” I’d laughingly say, “but don’t spoil your appetite!”

Rereading the bottle, I see that nowhere does it actually claim to be cream. All it says is “Pumpkin Spice”. The clever packagers know that my brain will infer the cream part, based on the picture on the cover, the shape of the bottle and its placement in the dairy section near other cream-ish products.

*Interesting side note: have you noticed that dairy products now come in bottles that look like Mae West? I read an article that manufacturers have switched to this package because research shows that bottles with a thinner waist are more attractive to buyers. Apparently, we are so stupid that we equate a shapely bottle with a shapelier us.

The front of the bottle advises “Shake well” in little letters. They should print a hazmat warning, instead. If you get an unadulterated swallow of dipotassium phosphate, your head might explode.

I wouldn’t mind putting all these questionable chemicals in my body if it tasted good. After all, we all know we’re taking our lives in our hands when we eat a Twinkie, but we’re willing to take the risk for the sake of the sugary, creamy goodness therein. But this stuff doesn’t even taste like pumpkin. It doesn’t taste like anything, really. It just turns the coffee tan if you put enough in.

I guess if I want real, natural pumpkin flavor in my coffee, I would need to cut open a jack-o-lantern, throw in a pot of java and swish it around. Somehow, that doesn’t appeal.

I threw out the pumpkin spice creamer, a sadder but wiser gal. I’ll be going back to plain, old, real cream. It’s not very exotic, but at least I have a good chance of coming out of that encounter alive.


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iPhone 6 Plus A Big Hit Everywhere Except In Your Pants


Runways respond to techno-fashion crisis

The latest gadget has arrived on the scene, and everyone in the world has to have it. Unfortunately, technoistas have already come crashing down from their initial high as reality bites them in the butt.

The humongous new iPhone 6 Plus is too big to fit in anyone’s pocket.

“Woe is we, whatever will we do?” a frightened, fashion-forward populace is heard to cry.

Be not afraid!  The fashion world scrambled to address this sartorial crisis and help is on the way.  On Fashion Week runways from Milan to New York, designers merged style and substance as never before.

Here’s a sample of the ground-breaking looks being presented for the techno-groovy:

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Note: “iPhone 6 too big for pockets” comment courtesy of Elyse at Fifty-four and A Half. I’m so glad I have clever friends to swipe ideas from.

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Invasion Of The iPhone Snatchers

You can run, but you cannot hid.

You can run, but you cannot hide.

My husband has become one of Them.  They’re taking over.

I keep trying to tell people, but they won’t listen.
“You’re paranoid.” they say.
“That’s crazy talk.” they say.

Oh sure, it seemed innocent enough at first.  The iPod was great – who wouldn’t want to make their own music play lists?  Soon, everybody had one.  Then came the iPhones, then the iPads, then upgrades without end.  They infiltrated our lives so slowly that nobody noticed they were taking over.

Those who have already been transformed are the biggest threat.

It’s hard to tell iPod People from normal people, except for their total lack of emotion about anything but apps and future upgrades.  They wear a perpetually glazed-over look until the subject swings round to the latest iGizmo.  Then they come to life, eyes firing with the religious fervor of a tent-revival preacher.

Ever since my 2-year contract with Verizon came up, they’ve been after me in dead earnest; the phone calls, the emails, the relentless barrage of ads.  I already have a “smart” phone, but it’s a 2-year-old Android.  It’s not the latest thing.  It’s not an iPhone.

When one of the iPod People catches sight of my old phone, it is like waving a red cape before a bull.

They almost got me last week at a party.  I thought this man was a friend, but he pinned me down and proceeded to explain every, single, mother-loving enhancement coming in the iPhone 6.  Foam flecked the corners of his mouth.   I created a diversion by pointing at someone across the room, saying, “Look, he got the iPhone 6 early!”  I was able to slip away when he charged at the guy, knocking people aside to get to his quarry.  I barely escaped with my life.

iPhone6snatchersThey’ve already got my husband, Bill.   He doesn’t look any different, but a wife knows.  He is an empty shell of the man he used to be.  His body still sits on the couch in our living room, but his spirit is fully taken over by the pursuit and mastery of new iPhone apps.

I’m afraid to go down to the basement – afraid my iPod is growing down there, just waiting to take me over.   I’ll hold out as long as I can, but I’m getting tired.  So tired.

What’s that you say?  It can’t happen to you?  Oh, you naïve fool, don’t you know?   They’re already here.


        We’re next.

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Let Your Fingers Do The Talking: Universal Sign Language For Drivers

I am somewhat displeased.

I am somewhat displeased.

The problem with Driver’s Ed is that students only learn useless information like the proper distance to maintain when following a car towing a house trailer up an incline of more than 30 degrees during an ice storm (2 miles.) Why don’t they teach things you can really use?

As a public service to all, here is valuable information drivers need to navigate in the real world:

Universal Sign Language for Drivers

driversNoYouGo2No, No, After You:  One hand makes a shooing motion, right to left or left to right, depending on the position of the other car. Usually accompanied by a smile and nod of the head. Used by a driver to indicate that the other driver may go first when they come to a 4-way stop at the same time. A more vigorous shooing motion may also be used to indicate to pedestrians that they may proceed across the street in front of your car, and that you will not run them over.

driversMergeVirg2Let Me In!: One hand pointing to the next lane where you want to go. Accompanied by a pleading look directed at the driver currently in that lane. Used to try to get the other guy to recognize you as a deserving human being, and not a competing race-car at the Indianapolis 500. Intensity of pointing gesture and pleading look increases the closer you get to your lane ending and the very real possibility that you will hurl over the approaching cliff to your doom in a fiery crash.

driversHowThanks2How, Kemosabe: One hand up straight, palm forward as if swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in a court of law (or how Hollywood depicted Native Americans saying hello in movies 50 years ago.) This gesture is accompanied by a half-smile and possibly an incline of the head. It is used to respond to another driver who has waived you ahead at a four-way stop, or has let you merge in front of them. It serves as acknowledgment, agreement and thank you.

driversGiveMeStrength2Give Me Strength: Both hands raised, palms up. Accompanied by both eyes looking to heaven with an expression of open-mouthed disbelief. This indicates you are appealing to a Higher Power for the strength to resist the nearly overpowering urge to unleash a can of wup-ass on the clueless driver sharing the road with you, even though he or she definitely deserves said ass-wuppery.

driversLightChanged2Got a Light?: One hand raised, palm up. Both eyes also raised, but not as far as heaven – just as far as the traffic light. May be accompanied by a short toot on the horn to awaken the driver who is obviously asleep in the car ahead of you. This indicates that the light turned green a whole, 2 seconds ago and some people have places to go!

driversSorry2My Bad: Both hands raised, palms up. Differs from the Give Me Strength gesture as it is accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders and a sheepish smile of apology. Used to indicate you are sorry for forcing the other driver to slam on the brakes to avoid certain death, and to say that in the future you promise to check your blind spot by actually turning your head BEFORE changing lanes. If the other driver answers with an Up Yours sign, you are not allowed to respond in kind.

driversCan'tGoOn3I Give Up: Both hands grasping the steering wheel, head bowed in defeat. Possible tears. Used to signify your total befuddlement at how some people were ever allowed to get a driver’s license, and that you can no longer stand the seemingly endless parade of rude and clueless drivers on the road nowadays. Also signifies your intention to sell your car and take the bus from now on.

There you have it. Learn to interpret these universal hand signals and there will be no mistaking the messages you are sending and receiving.  This is especially true when you use the following signal:

driversVeryDispleased2Up Yours: One hand raised, the middle finger extended skyward. The other hand may clasp the arm above the elbow for emphasis. Accompanied by an expression of anger and, often, words that would have gotten your mouth washed out with soap when you were a child. Used to signal displeasure with another driver’s performance.

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Take The Bucket O Chicken Challenge To Cure LAFF


The phenomenal success of the ice bucket challenge has brought in a ton of money for ALS, as well as bringing much-needed awareness to this worthy cause.   I’m going to borrow the idea to raise funds for another cause that is near and dear to my heart, the effort to stamp out LAFF.

Of course I’ve known about this horrible condition for a long time, but I never fully realized how many people are afflicted until last week…when I was Freshly Pressed.

My piece was a tongue-in-cheek announcement of my intention to sue Facebook for posting a picture of me as a dorky kid.   WordPress FPd the post under the tag “Social Media,” and therein lies the trouble. Since it wasn’t specifically tagged as “Humor”, a significant number of new readers thought I was serious. They chided, they scolded, and some even cursed me out for my irresponsible suit.

I was puzzled. How could somebody NOT get that I was joking? Who wouldn’t recognize the funny unless they had a large, neon “Humor” sign pointing it out? That’s when it hit me. Those readers are obviously suffering from advanced cases of LAFF.

Lack of
For the

My heart bleeds for these poor sufferers, but pity is not enough. What is needed here is action. There is so much to be done. These are just a few of the projects the good folks at the Society to Eradicate LAFF are working on:

A dedicated volunteer

A dedicated volunteer

1) Remedial classes diagramming knock-knock jokes

2) Humor sensitivity training involving The Three Stooges, Monty Python, old Saturday Night Live sketches and other seminal works

3) Training volunteer Funny Buddies to sit with LAFF sufferers and guide them during key events, like when watching standup comedy, or reading this blog

4) Genetic research to identify and isolate the “funny gene” which LAFF sufferers are clearly lacking

The work is vital, but it is not cheap. That’s where you come in.

I’m asking you to take the LAFF Bucket Challenge. Donate $10 to the cause, and then film yourself being doused. With a bucket of chicken.  Rubber chickens.  Share your video on social media and let the cause go viral.

Elyse at the great blog FiftyFourandAHalf is already hard at work on a series of Public Service Ads featuring the LAFF spokeschicken, Foghorn Leghorn.

Remember, people with LAFF are just like you and me, except not funny.  Take the challenge, give generously and with your help, we can cure LAFF during our lifetime. Hopefully before I publish my next post.

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