‘Thinking today about yesterday.’

My friend Bonnie sent an email this morning: “Thinking today about yesterday.” We were together most of yesterday in Lexington, Virginia, midway between our homes.

The day was beautiful for its ease, companionship, and welcome change in weather. Bonnie and I have always said, no matter how much time passes between our get-togethers — years sometimes — we always pick up and carry on as if we’d seen each other just the day before. Such is the nature of a friendship that spans nearly fifty years. We’ve shared  life’s joys, heartaches, triumphs, secrets, and laughs…so many laughs.

Yesterday was no exception. It was ten months since we our last visit. We talked through lunch at Kind Roots, a delightful little cafe, and we talked while we strolled Lexington’s quaint downtown. We talked about children and grandchildren, books and poetry, gardening and bees. We didn’t dwell on our lives’ nasty stressors, instead we spent considerable time in one shop deciding which teapot we’d buy if we could buy only one. We grumbled about ever-changing, mind-numbing technology and the hobbling effects of age.

Everybody should have a friend like Bonnie. Over the years she has stared down personal issues that would have crippled a lesser woman. Recently, she built herself a tiny house (she was the mastermind, not the builder) and shed all the stuff she’d accumulated over the years.

She loves her newly unencumbered life in a perfectly tailored little house that is set in a field spread wide with buttercups.

Travel on a root canal.

The grocery is not a destination I choose willingly. I’d rather go to the dentist for a root canal. The dentist offers lidocaine, but there is nothing to numb the pain of grocery shopping.

Now, though, on-line shopping is coming to a grocery near me. Will I use it? I don’t know. There are passwords and IDs involved. I’ve pooh-poohed most modern day techno-advancements — dial telephones, electric typewriters, computers, cell phones, programmable appliances, smart phones…. I don’t take kindly to change, and I’m a real spaz with my phone.

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Ordering groceries on-line is a new wrinkle in the old fabric of catalog and Amazon ordering: you make out an orderselect a pick-up timesomeone shops for you, you drive to the store at the designated time, your purchases are loaded into your car. But, you still have to unload at home, lug everything inside and  put it away.

Instead of scribbling your needs on the back of an old envelope the way your  mother did, you select them from what looks like a child’s picture-book page, and if you want something unusual, you type it in — black olives stuffed with crunchy peanut butter, for instance.

Many things I buy are spur o’moment, not really a good idea, I know. Will the assigned shoppers know I have a hankering for a bag of peanut M&M’s? Or a pomegranate? Or how about black rice? No, they will not. With this new scheme I’ll have to “pre-know” that I might want a pomegranate and put it on my list.

Leslie and her friend Kenna mentioned seeing people do their weekly shopping while consulting a list on their smart phones. They don’t, they said, and neither do I. I carry a printed list I devised, that groups items according to the way the store is organized: deli, produce, meat, dairy, and so on.

This new enterprise is almost ready to go locally, and now a large section of the store has been re-dedicated. They’ve reorganized merchandise, and shoved shelves closer. The aisles are way too narrow. I experienced a traffic jam in the pasta and other “foreign foods” lane last week. It took about four minutes to clear — four minutes longer than I wanted to spend in a place where I hate to go.

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Road trip.

The furthest we go from home these days is 596 miles to visit daughter Carolynn and son-in-law Bill in upstate New York. September is the perfect time . Warm days, crispy mornings, leaves getting their reds and oranges on, pumpkins beaming sunny smiles along the roads.

Before we left home mid-month, Carolynn wanted to know what I’d like to do while there. Easy answer:
1. Sit on the porch and do nothing.
2. Sit on the porch and read.
3. Sit on the porch and play canasta.
4. Eat at Symeon’s, our favorite restaurant.
5. Spend a day in the Adirondack Mountains.
6. Get together with a young old friend, Lisa

 

Lisa, #6, drove two hours to meet me in the little village where Peter and I lived for seventeen years. We reckoned it had been twenty years since we’d seen each other. That time, we met at the Utica Zoo, me with grandchildren Samantha and Jeremiah, screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-4-42-25-pmthen two and seven, and her with daughter Kristin, five. Her son Eric wasn’t on the horizon then. Twenty years! We’d worked at General Electric at the same time, she a recent college grad about Carolynn’s age, me, old enough to mother her, though she said I mentored. We talked Wednesday afternoon away. That evening sheimg_4140 texted to say she’d forgotten to give me the small gift she’d brought along. I’d already pulled away when she remembered, so she gave the package to the bartender at Nola’s to keep for me. When I went to pick it up there was an boisterous crowd at the bar. A couple of young women had heard the story of our meeting after so many years and begged me to open the gift right then so they could see it! The little box contained earrings made from old typewriter keys. Perfect.

That day was a bright note that week, along with a glissando of other bright notes. Carolynn, friend Robin and I went to lunch, to shop, and to watch Bridget Jones deliver her baby. We did everything on my list, and more. Our day in the Adirondacks, #5 on my list, was picture perfect. What more could anyone ask of a road trip?

 

 

Sweatshirt or teacups?

Most females —  pubescent girls to great-grandmas — hate to shop for brassieres with good reason. It is a daunting task.

With a selection of options dangling over our arms we enter fitting rooms. Will these fit? The light is so dim and so yellow we can’t find ourselves in the mirrors.

There is an amazing multitude of choices — see-through, peek-through, maximizer, minimizer, strap, no strap, stays, zippers, sexy, modest, sports, evening, buster booster, training. Then there are color choices from white to demure pastels, vivid colors, camouflage, leopard spots, zebra stripes, and fabrics from cotton, rayon, nylon, satin, spandex, and trims from dainty ribbons to sequins, rhinestones, lace, and mirrors.

As far as I’m concerned, the perfect bra is a sweatshirt. —Maxine

Once a year I force myself to shop for these skimpy necessities in a jungle of Maidenform, Olga, Jockey, Playtex, Bali, Warner’s, Vanity Fair, Bare Necessity and Glamorise.  Where is a saleslady when I want one? I wander alone through clogged aisles, searching for white comfort, size, wire-less, padding-less.

Finally, armed with several types, I enter a murky dressing room that shows signs of someone having lunched there. I strip from the waist up. Ugh. The mirror, obviously, came from a defunct funhouse!

But I get lucky. Two options work. Done. I am prepared to stuff my merchandise in my purse and leave if I can’t find someone to ring me up quickly.  A clerk from Bed & Bath finds me before I make my getaway.

A good friend is like a good bra…hard to find, supportive, comfortable, there to lift you up and always close to your heart! — Anon

When I clip the tags off my purchases, I see this: The Playtex Vacationer™ — Around or out of town, this felxible [sic] bra will whisk you away with coolness and comfort. Destined to be your go-to-bra, wherever you go. I seldom go anywhere anymore, but now, when I do, I’ll have the perfect undergarment with …rounderaccommodating cups [that] mean less spillage….  If I’d wanted a teacup I’d have gone to Housewares.

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Prince Albert Collection teacup.

Watt the heck happened?

“The bulb broke off in the socket and you can’t get it out,” said the wizened helper at our local True Value hardware store. I’d walked in holding the socket and the broken remains of a three-way bulb aloft in a plastic baggie.

“Well, yes,” I said, “but that’s not the problem.” He was already heading to the front desk to get a screwdriver. Quick as a bulb burning out, he had the shards removed.  “What happened is, I put in a new bulb, after the bulb I’d just replaced two days ago burned out. When I screwed the newest bulb  in, it flashed then exploded. Glass sprayed all over. It looked like fireworks.”

He stroked his chin. No place but in a local hardware store would a clerk stroke his chin. Nor for that matter, help without being asked. I love local shops.

The solution was, buy a new socket assembly. I bought that and a bag of the peppermints I can only find at Christmas. The guys at the counter laughed at me. “Well-l, I didn’t really come in here to buy candy,” I said, attempting to make excuses for myself.

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40 years’ use shows.

The next day I decided I could replace that socket myself. I consulted our 1975 edition of How things work in your home) and what to do when they don’t.  Can’t beat its concise directions and easy to understand drawings. I attached the twisty little copper wires onto one thingie, then the other twisty copper wires to the other thingie. Put in a new bulb, and POW. Three in two days. I was running out of bulbs. I called son-in-law Martin. He and Les were on their way out — they’d stop by in a few minutes.

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Look at diagrams once, and once again.

When I showed him how carefully I’d followed the book’s instructions, he looked at me with a grin teetering on the edge of laughter. “That’s not the ground,” he said, “this is. You shorted it out.” I mistakenly wrapped one of the copper twizzlies around the switch instead of the terminal. Not good.

Within seconds he’d done it properly. Helpful sons-in-law are as good to have as a helpful hardware man. We have another good son-in-law in Bill, but he lives too far away for these drive-by fix-its I seem to need more and more often these days.

 

Seven miles isn’t far to go.

UnknownGoing to Lowe’s isn’t as exciting as our travels of years back, but it is only a seven-mile trip. We’ve reached the stage where  things are falling apart around our house. After eighteen years, it’s surprising more things haven’t quit. Yesterday’s adventure was necessary.

We remodeled our kitchen within months of moving in. All. New. Appliances. Yesterday the oven’s light bulb blew. That it lasted so long is amazing! The appliance bulbs prescribed in my dog-eared manual are no longer “appliance” bulbs, and they’re not stocked with all the other bulbs. Now they answer to “multi-use,” but if you don’t know that you have to find someone to ask.

Mayor+Lt+Gov+Elect+Newsom+Attends+Lowe+Store+0eHmL2Z3OmolI found a pleasant, red-vested Lowe’s associate who confessed he was “new,” but said, “I’ve worked in the gardening center for years. They moved me ‘inside’ a few weeks ago. If I can’t find the bulb, I know who to ask,” he said as he toddled down the aisle.

He found Rick. Rick was so nice and able to help me with everything on my list: bulb, Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 1.56.12 PMthermometer, deflectors for A/C vents, dishwasher and stove specs and prices. In return, I gave him advice on knee replacement surgery, told him what I knew about hip replacement, and recommended surgeons. Win-win.

I needed a thermometer to check the temperature in a room versus what the thermostat said. “Don’t look in the heating and A/C area, look in the birdseed aisle,” Rick said.

I knew our dishwasher was as good as dead and reasonably sure I knew what replacement brand and model I wanted. Rick found my choices on his computer at a better base price that included installation, if I could wait to make my purchase after February 10. I’ll be washing dishes in the sink until then. The door gasket spit out another chunk today. I’ve procrastinated too long.

Our stove also needs a pricey cartridge for the simmer control burners. Way more cost effective to buy a new stove, than to buy more than 500 dollars’ worth of parts and installation. The two-bulb package was a steal at two bucks.

I’d been researching dual-fuel ranges on-line and noticed a lot of them have a “Sabbath Feature.” I questioned Rick who said, “People who aren’t allowed to cook on certain days want ‘Sabbath.’ It locks the stove.”  Sounds like a programming nightmare to me. Why not go out to eat, I wondered?

Our fridge? It has surpassed life expectancy too. And the water-heater, though still functioning well, is older than all our other big ticket appliances.

Oi vey!Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 3.14.16 PMA woman is looking at new stoves. “Do you have one with a bigger back burner?” she asks. “There’s a lot of stuff I can’t deal with right now.”

 

Unstuffed and mix’n’match? Good grief!

In my day — admittedly that was a day long ago — mothers nagged their sons to tuck their shirts in, while their daughters wouldn’t be caught dead in a blouse that wasn’t pulled down so tight that she couldn’t raise her hand in class. In fact, the garment that used to be a blouse, is now a shirt. Have you tried to buy a “blouse” recently? I don’t go shopping very often, but from the catalogs I look at, if a blouse shirt is part of the oufit, it’s slightly untucked from the slacks pants or jeans.

Screen shot 2015-02-21 at 8.47.38 AMTrendy young men have been wearing unstuffed shirts, or shirts that hang out all the way around, for quite a few years. Young women not so much. That is, until this “half-stuffed” look arrived. One doesn’t see women of a certain age untucked, unless they  need a face lift.  (Frankly, a little nip hereScreen shot 2015-02-21 at 10.06.42 AM and tuck there wouldn’t go amiss for many of us, but I take the stance that I’ve earned every chin, every wrinkle I’ve got, thank you very much! They are who I am now.)

 

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Pajama tops and bottoms were matchy-matchy in my day. My mom made mine from this very pattern.

Here’s another thing. Who decided that pajama tops didn’t need to match pajama bottoms anymore? Eddie Bauer? JJill? Victoria you-know-who? Who started the trend to separates? When I get ready for bed, I want comfort. I don’t want to search for pajama parts. Give me a matched set of flannel pj’s, and I’m happy.

Back in the day, slumber parties were the thing. A gaggle of giggly girls gathered at one girl’s house to eat potato chips and brownies and drink Cokes all night long. Often, the boys would hear about the goings-on and try to crash the party, but a vigilant dad with a growly voice and fierce look dispatched them in short order.

Nowdays — did you know? — boys and girls have slumber parties together. All very above board, so I’m told, and well-chaperoned, but still. I have to wonder what fun it is to sit and gossip when there’s a bunch of boys present? They do sit and gossip, don’t they?

Pajamas-as-street-wear is another unfortunate trend. In our little college town the fad seems to be outlandishly patterned flannel bottoms, say black with purple and fluorescent green, with a sweatshirt, usually maroon and orange, up top.

A few years ago I learned that our grandson Miah wanted footie pajamas for his birthday. Darned if I didn’t find some to fit a very tall sixteen-year-old — bright turquoise emblazoned with green, yellow, and orange frogs! He was thrilled, but when I heard that he’d worn them to a movie at the mall, I was…well, let’s say…grandma was not so thrilled. Good grief! 

I don’t even like passers-by to see me, in my robe, picking up the paper from the curb!

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Allegro Izzy cotton flannel.

 

Plastic nightmares.

Guess what these dimensions define? Cardboard: 21-5/8″ x 6-7/8″ Clear plastic cover: 9-7/8″ x 7″ x 1-1/8″ Zipper: 9-7/8″

Give up?

It’s the packaging that encapsulated the two standard-size, 20″ x 30″ pillow cases I bought this week.

Don’t ask me why pillow cases, and indeed sheets, blankets and any number of other items need to be zipped up in plastic. True, the ones blankets come in can be re-used to store out of season clothes, for instance, and I’ve used the smaller sizes to keep things sorted when I travel. But really, why can’t we just purchase such things “unwrapped,” so to speak?

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Still on my shelf.

My mother made sheets and pillowcases from muslin. Sometimes she prettified the pillow “sheets,” as she called them, with embroidery. The thought of buying something she could make for “half the price” was scandalous to her. To be truthful, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven the first time I slept on store-bought sheets. There’s a world of difference between unbleached muslin sheets and soft, combed-cotton ones.

Five decades ago I remember buying sheet sets that were wrapped only with a pretty satin ribbon tied in a bow. Back then, “off-the-shelf” meant a sales clerk took the items off the shelf behind the counter and showed the items to you gently, almost reverently.  Today, sadly, the term means the customer takes it off a shelf herself, handles it, makes her decision, and often, if she decides against the purchase, she shoves it back any ol’ where.

Today’s self-serve mentality has redefined both shopping and packaging.

 

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Plastic Bag Gallery Exhibition, London, 2012

 

This week, [9/30/14] California became the first state in the nation to outlaw plastic-film bags. Stores will no longer be able to provide disposable bags to shoppers and they must charge for paper bags. The hope is that people will rely on reusable bags instead. Eliminating disposables will reduce the amount of plastic film that winds up in waterways, on roadsides, in trees and landfills. Of course manufacturers are already planning protests, but couldn’t they retool their factories to make reusable totes instead? Of course they could, they just don’t want to.

These thoughts were tumbling around in my head the day I found the most perfect pillowcases ever! Smothered though they were in zippered  plastic, they promised bedtime solace and no nightmares.

 

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Dreams are today’s answers to tomorrow’s questions. Edgar Cayce