How Men and Women Differ: Toilet Paper Version

It’s time, once more, for a thrill-a-minute roller coaster ride through my brain.  A toilet paper roll-er coaster.  Hang on.

peghamsterintoiletpaper

and….she’s off!

Men and women may look at the same world, but they do not see the same things.

Men tend to be linear thinkers who concentrate on one job until it is done.  Women multitask like a pack of hamsters on speed in a room full of running wheels.

I’m not saying one way is better than the other – they’re just different.  I also realize there are exceptions to every rule, and I don’t pretend to represent every woman Nonetheless, I suspect this will sound very familiar to both the XY and XX chromosomed.

Now that we’ve got the disclaimers out of the way…

The following is a true and faithful account of an actual event, which was experienced by me and my brain while spending quality time in my bathroom.

 

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My Uterus is Smarter Than My Head When It Comes to Babies

Soon I’ll be leaping tall cradles in a single bound!

When you get to be a “woman of a certain age”, like me, it makes you a little sad to realize that your body has retired from the business of producing life. After all, babies are sweet, adorable, and smell like innocence. Apparently my now-defunct uterus is smarter than my marshmallow-soft heart, because as I was recently reminded, taking care of babies is exhausting work best left to the young.

Almost all of our friends are grandparents.  Our 20-something girls have shown absolutely no interest in marriage or  children and I’ve adopted Doris Day’s “Que Será, Será” attitude about the whole thing.  I really mean it, too…for the most part.  But part of me is yearning for grand-kids.

This is where a much younger friend comes in.

My friend, Riko, is a stay-at-home mom with a 4-month-old son.  She brings him along when we get together so I can cuddle, coo and generally make a fool of myself all over his chubby cuteness.  She and her husband live half a world away from their families in Japan, and when I found out she was pregnant I saw myself as his substitute grandma.  I’ve offered to babysit several times but she wasn’t ready to leave him yet.  She recently mentioned their wedding anniversary was approaching.  I renewed my offer, she took me up on it, and I leapt at the chance.

I can’t remember the last time I watched an infant.  My husband and I have a large extended family, but haven’t had many opportunities to babysit due to distance and age differences between our kids and nieces and nephews.  I was a bit concerned that things might have changed a lot in the last 2 decades.  After all, medical science has flip-flopped like a landed fish on the whole babies-on-their-tummies-vs-on-their-backs debate.  But I trusted that the fundamentals would come back to me, and I was right.  It’s like riding a bike.  Assuming one rides a bike with a smelly diaper full of noxious substances.  What I hadn’t remembered is how exhausting the whole business is.

You need the stamina of a long distance runner, the flexibility of a gymnast and the entertaining skills of a clown to do a gig like this.

Riko said her son was a bit fussy in the evenings.  She is a master of understatement.  He was on the verge of bursting into big, fat tears the entire time and it was my sworn mission to keep that from happening.

I tried putting him on his play mat.  No go.  His swing?  Not interested.  Riko had said that holding him while sitting and bouncing on a big, rubber ball generally calmed him down, so I tried that.  Talk about a workout!  You have to balance on the thing by constantly tensing your thigh and stomach muscles.  Trying to get up or sit down while keeping both hands on a wriggly, 19-pound human tested my agility to the limit.  But that and walking around to look out the open window were the only things that kept him relatively cheerful.  I alternated between these activities all evening,  accompanying them with silly faces and made-up songs so stupid I would have been mortified to be caught on hidden camera.

After only 2 hours, my arms were quivering with exhaustion and my back was killing me.  When the anxious parents got home from their anniversary dinner and asked how the evening went, I lied through my teeth without hesitation – Junior had been a perfect angel, all smiles and fun, and didn’t they have somewhere to go tomorrow so I could babysit again?  Then I staggered home and collapsed.

My friend is taking the baby home for a month-long visit, and I’m going to use this time to get in shape.  I’m thinking squat thrusts for those bouncy-ball-balancing thigh muscles, arm curls for the baby-lifting triceps, and sit-ups to work that all-important core.  When they get back to town and I’m called up to pinch sit again, my response will be: “Bring it on!”

Here’s the babysitting par-course I’ve devised:

Totty Squatties

Lungs & Lunges

Kung Fu Baby

Leg Lifts & Lamentations

Falling Off The Damn Ball While Trying To Stand Up

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My Mother’s Hands

Today’s post is a replay of one I wrote several years ago.  I may have said it before, but the sentiment is still as fresh as ever: I love you, Mom.

 

My mom is the babe with the dark hair. I’m the kid on the left.

I have my mother’s hands.   That’s not something I’ve ever taken as a compliment – no offense, Mom.

Our hands are broad and short-fingered.   A network of lines criss-crosses both palm and back.  The adjectives “sturdy” and “capable” come to mind when you see them.  They’re milkmaid hands in search of a cow.

When I was a kid, my mother’s hands were rarely still.  I remember them…

wrist-deep in noxious substancesAs the mother of 9 children she handled more than her fair share of disgusting stuff.   Fully 4 little bottoms might be diaper-clad at any one time.  Dad helped, but as a stay-at-home mom, the lion’s share of the doody duty fell to her. Mom was a one-woman bomb squad, at least until us “big girls” were old enough to be sent to work in the doo-doo mines.

defrosting broccoli.  It’s not that Mom was a bad cook; it’s just that the unrelenting drudgery of putting breakfast, lunch and dinner on the table for that many people sucked most of the joyful creativity out of the process.  Her go-to menu consisted of hot dogs, frozen broccoli and baked potatoes.  In the summer she switched to my Dad’s favorite: corn-on-the-cob and BLTs for almost every meal.

up to her elbows in a laundry tub.  With 11 people in the house, the mountain of dirty clothes never really wore down.  All she could do was take a little off the top of the pile when it threatened to hit the ceiling.  Mom spent so much time in our dank basement she should have been a troll.  She never complained about it because it was the only place she could go to get away from us.  We kids never went down there for fear of being pressed into service carting baskets of clean clothes up two flights of stairs.

ink-stained, clutching the edges of a newspaper. My mother is a voracious reader.  The Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, the local paper, the Wall Street Journal – she’s read them all for years.  Back in the day, sticky little hands would rip down the newspaper barricade she tried to hide behind before she ever finished an article.  Her passions have always been politics, biographies and history.  She has been a proud member of the AAUW and their book club for almost 60 years.   She is still one of the most widely read people I know.

slapping at my Dad’s hand as he absent-mindedly raised it to his mouth to chew on a nail.  Mom is the eternal optimist.  She remains confident she can break him of this detested habit, even though she’s had no luck in 61 years.

wielding scissors.  Her passion for current events and politics leads to a need to share.  After we grew up and moved away, rarely did more than a few weeks go by without a familiar manila envelope showing up in our mailboxes, chock full of articles.  The salient parts are underlined and extra commentary written in the margin.   Hers is the voice of our civic consciences, exhorting us to stay informed, to write our congressmen, to DO something to right perceived wrongs in the system.  Mom is Jiminy Cricket to all of her little Pinocchios.

writing notes.  My mother rarely forgets a birthday, a holiday, or a special occasion.  She takes the time to pick out just the right card (usually mushy), and then underlines the sentiments that really speak to her.   She casts her net wide to keep the far-flung edges of our extended family together.  No matter the card, no matter the occasion, the message she is sending is clear: you are special to me.

bandaging boo-boos.  Over the years Mom has handled more injuries than the local emergency room, not all of them physical.  I remember being home from college one weekend when my little sister Judy interrupted us while we were making up a bed.  Struggling to navigate the shark-infested waters of junior high school, Judy dissolved into tears at the betrayal of a “friend”.  I slipped quietly out of the room, but the image of the two of them seated on the half-made bed remains with me to this day.  Judy sobbed on her shoulder while Mom cradled her awkward, adolescent baby in her arms.  Her capable hand gently smoothed her daughter’s hair, over and over again.

There, there.  Mommy’s here.

Mom doesn’t wear nail polish.  Her hands’ only adornments are her engagement and wedding rings.  These are sparkling testaments to her good taste in both diamonds and men.  She and my father will celebrate 61 years of marriage this summer.

A stroke some years back has slowed her down a bit, but at 86 she’s still a force to be reckoned with.   She worries that her handwriting is illegible since the stroke, but we all  reassure her: “No, your handwriting was always horrible, Mom.”  Dad attached a bicycle horn to her walker and she gives it a brisk squeeze if she needs to clear dawdlers out of her path at Big Boy Restaurant.   Going out to breakfast is her favorite sport – another of her features I inherited.

When I look back on life with my Mom I realize I will be lucky if my hands accomplish ¼th of what hers have done.  And if mine can hold even a fraction of the love that hers have, I know I will have been blessed beyond measure to have my mother’s hands.

Mom, Dad and all their children at our sister’s 60th birthday party a couple of weeks ago. Our brother Pat is no doubt making devil ears behind all of our heads from his perch in heaven.

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11 Warning Signs Your Fashion Addiction May Require An Intervention

No problem here.

A lot of people use fashion as a way to express their unique sense of style.   I can’t say I’m up on all the latest trends, but I try to look like I live some time in the 21st century.   It’s fun to experiment with new clothes and accessories, putting things together in fresh, new ways.  It can make your day when you find just the right piece to complete a look.

It is possible, however, for a fashionista to have too much of a good thing.

Be on the lookout for the following warning signs.  If you exhibit any of them, it may mean your passion for fashion has gone a bit too far:

  1. When you talk about “investments” you’re referring to your Yves Saint Laurent handbags, not your 401K.
  2. You own more than 4 pairs of jeans.
  3. Your feet are so messed up you’ve got your podiatrist on speed-dial, yet that is not enough of an incentive to abandon your vast collection of Manolo Blahniks with the six-inch heels.
  4. You live alone mainly because a roommate would expect to share some of the closet space.
  5. Navy with black is on trend this season.  You figure you’ll need a whole, new wardrobe since all your stuff is from last season when the style was black with navy.
  6. You scrape your knuckles trying to extract anything from your jam-packed closet, yet each morning you stand in front of it and wail, “I don’t have a thing to wear!”  And you mean it.
  7. You’re like a movie star on the red carpet, not because you have any acting ability, but because you’ve got so much money tied up in the jewelry adorning various parts of your body, you shouldn’t leave the house without an armed guard.

    Duplicate dresses photo from…from…random internet stock photo. Yeah, that’s it. Totally not from anybody you would know.

  8. It seems perfectly reasonable to have 8 pairs of black boots.  After all, the heels and trim are slightly different.
  9. You consider eyeglasses as yet another fashion accessory – prescription, not just cheaters- and have an entire wardrobe of different styles for different occasions.
  10. You’ve got hats, handbags and shoes to match every outfit, and you are not the Queen of England.
  11. You buy a great little dress that looks so familiar, you’re sure you must have seen it in the pages of a fashion magazine.  When you get home, you discover it looks familiar because you have the exact, same dress hanging in the back of your closet.

Do any of these symptoms sound like you?  If so, it may be time for an intervention.  Things have reached a serious stage, but don’t despair – help is available.  I’ve discovered a wonderful support group that welcomes fashionistas warmly in a safe, non-judgmental environment.  Won’t you join us?  We meet every Tuesday morning at Bloomingdale’s.

In the shoe department.

 

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Yet Another Milestone I’d Rather Avoid

tombstone2

 

According to the saying, “A diamond is forever.”  That’s why engagement rings have diamonds – they symbolize permanence.  But I know a rock that makes a diamond look as fleeting as a Popsicle on a summer sidewalk, and that’s a tombstone.

My husband and I just bought cemetery plots.

This shouldn’t be a big deal – after all, I’m on our church cemetery board.   But I must admit the experience has me a bit rattled.   When you buy a grave, you’re coming face-to-face with some major-league, weighty truths:

  • I am a grownup. I can think of a million things I’d rather spend our hard-earned cash on: designer clothes, exotic vacations or cosmetic surgery.  We could have bought a sophisticated condo in the city or a beach-front time-share in Waikiki.  Instead, our secondary residence is a little getaway in Forest Lawn.   I’m hoping 57-year-old Peg’s righteous glow of self-satisfaction will eventually outshine inner-21-year-old Peg’s disgust at such a sucky use of money.
  •  I am going to stay here forever.   My parents dragged us around the cemeteries in my hometown every Memorial Day when we were kids.   We weeded around the headstones while Mom told us how the people under them fit into our family tree.  Now we’ve got a place for our kids to weed and recite our lineage.  Nothing tethers you to an area like being permanently planted in the ground there.

Don’t get me wrong; I like it fine here.  But I’ve always held the secret fantasy of living somewhere a bit more exotic.  I could see myself in a hut on a tropical island, living off fish and coconuts (supplemented by a monthly supply boat full of Little Debbie Snack Cakes.)   Fat chance of that happening now.  We’ve done the last real estate deal you’ll ever do.

  • I am going to be with this person forever. Most of us mean it when we take our marriage vows; I certainly did, and after almost 35 years I think it’s safe to say this relationship is going to last.  But there’s always that teeny, tiny voice in the back of one’s head whispering, “If this doesn’t work, I’m outta here!”  No more.   You don’t know the meaning of the word “commitment” until you agree to lie side-by-side with someone for eternity.
  • I am going to die. We’re all going to die, obviously. I don’t have any immediate plans to do so, but who knows?   I believe that life is a preparation for eternal happiness with God, yet knowing something intellectually and believing in hazy euphemisms is entirely different from coming face-to-face with the reality that I am personally going to shuffle off this mortal coil.  My essence is going to flee my body (hopefully accompanied by angels singing me to my heavenly reward) and my earthly remains are going into a box for the final move to our cozy, little hideaway, complete with pastoral views.

Any one of these concepts is tough to handle; all of them stacked together makes a reality sandwich that’s hard to swallow.

I’ve become more reconciled to the idea now that we’ve signed on the dotted line.  I can even see a number of benefits to this arrangement.  Snow removal and yard maintenance are constant hassles at our current home in the country.  When we move to our new place, we’ll be able to lie back, relax, and let someone else mow the grass.  Right over our heads.

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America Needs More Taxes

I dusted off this once Freshly Pressed post and gussied it up a bit in honor of America’s fast-approaching day of financial angst.

Pass these fabulous ideas along to any elected officials you know, OK?

If you do the crime, you pay the fine.

What’s wrong with America is some of y’all need to pay more taxes.

Most of us are doing our tax returns right about now, and that usually involves complaining about how much we have to pay.  Don’t look at it as a bad thing.  Taxes raise money, sure, but the government also uses taxes to change our behavior.  We are encouraged to do some things like buy houses, solar panels and windmills, and not do others like smoking, drinking and driving gas-guzzling cars.

I’ve come up with a comprehensive tax plan that expands on that idea.  My plan will bring in much needed cash, and encourage everyone to follow the “right” path.

Here’s a partial list of proposed taxes:

Individuals

  • Me No Like-y Tax:  Each time the word “like” is used, except to express a preference, or to compare things, it will be taxed.  Tax collectors will be stationed in junior highs, high schools and malls on a Saturday afternoon.
  • Scanties Tax:  This fine is imposed each time we are forced to look at someone’s underwear because his or her pants are too low.  Also levied if the person is wearing what they call leggings, but which are clearly nothing more than pantyhose. The fine will be doubled if the low pants reveal an area that SHOULD be underwear-clad, but isn’t – the BCC addendum (Butt-Crack Cleavage).  The fine is waived if the person is a professional underwear model.
  • Tortoise Tax:  This is levied against anyone driving more than 5 miles below the speed limit.  Tax doubled if it is rush hour, if there is only one lane available, or if the offender is hanging out in the passing lane.
  • Gimme Shelter Tax: Fine levied on people who feel the need to attach the word “shelter” or “rescue” every time they talk about their pets, as if that were some type of breed, so that everyone knows what big-hearted humanitarians they are.  An invoice for ten times the usual fine will be  automatically generated for celebrities when interviewed by People, Us Weekly and similar magazines, as they are practically guaranteed to use these words.

Businesses

  • Murdering the King’s English Tax:  Imposed on businesses that deliberately misspell, misuse and generally slaughter the English language.  This will be levied for:
    • Using dumbed-down synonyms like: lite, rite, hunny, nu, ez
    • Adding “e” to words to make them looke olde
    • Substituting “k” for “c” to kompel kute alliteration
  • Nobody’s Home Tax:  Imposed on businesses that use computer telephone answering systems without the option to press zero to reach a human.  The tax is doubled if the phone recording is set for “folksy” and says things like “OK, let me look that up for you.”  Nobody is looking anything up.  Don’t you think we get that we’re talking to a computer?
  • Green Is The Color Of Money Tax:  Fines are levied on companies for changing the packaging or advertising on the same old stuff, solely to jump on the “green” bandwagon.  A corresponding tax will also be levied on the consumer who buys stuff to give the appearance of caring for the environment, without actually making any changes in how they live.

I was thinking of a flat 10 cents tax per infraction, but we can work out the details later.  I welcome input as we get the dialogue going.

I welcome constructive input, that is.  Some critics have said this is nothing more than a scheme to punish people who do things that bother me.  To these cynics I say; let me introduce you to the Smart Ass Tax.

That will be 10 cents each, please.

 

 

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How Your Attitude Towards Socks Acts As A Rorschach Test Of Emotional Functionality. Yup. Yuppers.

Do you see what I see?

There are 2 kinds of people in the world:  those to whom life is an adventure to be seized and savored, and those who hold on to orphaned socks.

I keep mine in a laundry bag under my bed.

My sock bag contains:

  • 1 chunky, green, knit Christmas reindeer sock with a hole in the heel.
  • 10 basic, black trouser socks whose slightly different tone-on-tone patterns would be glaringly obvious in the cold, fluorescent light of an office day.
  • Enough mismatched hospital socks with the built-in rubber treads to indicate we’re not as healthy as I like to think.
  • More white cotton tube socks and tennis footies than I can count.  I swear they multiply in the dark.

This inventory doesn’t even include our kids’ socks.  The girls have moved up and out, but their orphans remain.

Every couple of months, while folding laundry on my bed on a Saturday morning, I get out the bag and play matchmaker.  Sometimes I call “good enough” on the footies -who sees them peeking out of tennis shoes?  Occasionally I decide my pants will hide the differences on the trouser socks.  But these are arranged marriages; an honest-to-goodness match is rare.  When that happens I feel an unreasonable thrill of accomplishment.  The newly reunited couple goes two-by-two with their matched-up brethren into my sock drawer ark, while the orphans go lonely back to their dusty hiding place.

My mom kept her mismatches in a basket permanently stationed on the farm table in the basement where she folded laundry.  The contents of that basket didn’t change one bit from my childhood until the folks sold the family home some years ago.  There was a well-darned muslin specimen at the bottom of the basket which probably came over from Ireland with my mom’s great-great-grandmother 150 years ago.  It’s at the bottom of my sock bag now, passed on like bread starter from home to home.

I started thinking about this topic because a friend posted on Facebook that she threw out all of her unmatched socks.

It’s almost inconceivable.  To throw them away… ALL of them?  A person who could do that could do anything.   They could quit their 9-5 job, write the book they always meant to, or hike the Appalachian Trail.  The sky’s the limit for someone with that kind of daring!

That could be me, I thought.  I could get rid of my orphan socks.  I could march to the trash can right damn now, throw them all in, and not even save them for rags.   There’s nothing to stop me – I could DO it!

The enormity of what I was considering struck me like an avalanche and left me quivering with anxiety.  It took hours of rocking in a fetal position cradling an empty coffee can before I felt calm again. (I’ve got a huge stash of coffee cans in the basement – you never know when you might need one.)

Holding on to orphaned socks may indicate I have a pitiful need for security and routine that manifests itself as an unnatural attachment to things.

Or not.

An alternative interpretation is that I’m an eternal optimist.  Maybe, instead of a neurotic psycho, I’m a hopeless romantic always looking for a happy ending.

I’d better not rush into anything with the socks.  Who knows?  After I’m dead and gone my kids might finally find the mate to my rainbow-striped toe sock.  I’ve been holding onto it  since 6th grade.

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