An Ode to All Things Old

(Here is a really old rerun. Yes, I do like old things)

Gazing fondly at one of the cuffs on my favorite sweatshirt, faded, frayed and stained though it is, I can only think what a reliable old friend that shirt has been for a lot of years. I can’t remember where or when I bought it or what color it used to be; too many wearings, too much soap and bleach.

The inside, once soft and fleecy, has been worn down to the point where it’s barely recognizable, something like its owner. I’m afraid I’m showing the wear and tear of too many years, too. Still, I love my old shirt and I’ll wear it until it hangs off my shoulders in tatters. Maybe we’ll wear out together.

I love old stuff, not necessarily antiques, although antiques are treasured by most people, especially when  they’ve been lovingly maintained. They’re beautiful, but a bit rich for my tastes. I just happen to like trashy old things, JUNQUE, if you will. Old furniture, old clothes, comfortable shoes, old music, beat-up cars, little old houses, the list goes on.

I’ve had a dress for so long it’s in style again for the third time. Originally a fabric called crepe de chine, it more closely resembles lace now, and the color has gone from a vibrant blue to kind of a wishy-washy gray. It’s beautiful. And let’s hear it for the good old songs, too; they just don’t write them like “Mairzy Doats” any more. The term “tin can” suits my car, and my house is a wreck. So who cares?

I like tried and true, reliable, well-loved, shaped and worn to fit, years-out-of-date stuff. Nothing can be too old. Give me a day of browsing Yard Sales, dusty Pawn Shops, Used Book Stores and dirty Junk Yards and I’m a happy person. Good honest dirt never hurt anyone.

Recently I came across the phrase “Re-cover, Re-paint, Re-purpose.” It resonated with me. Why can’t we use that phrase for people, too? We could use a bit of spiffing up, re-painting and re-covering. We may not respond to re-purposing but we do endure.

Old people are my absolute favorites. Being one myself has obviously influenced me; at least, I rather like to think so. I can appreciate the wrinkles, the long pauses in conversations, the unsteady gait, the endless accounts of medical visits and surgeries and the precious family pictures pulled out of old wallets for the umpteenth time. Comfort has a lot to do with this.

What could be more satisfying than a few hours spent listening to the same old stories, told by the same old friends, people I’ve known for years, as we lounge around in our tacky old shirts and jeans. We could finish one another’s stories, we’ve heard them so often. My sweatshirt has been in on more discussions than a pair of wingtips in Congress.

Obviously “old”  has become my favorite adjective and I use it with pride. I have friends dating back to grade school days. How’s that for tried and true? Sure, we’ve changed, who hasn’t, but we still recognize one another and share some good laughs. We’ve grown into the big ears and knobby knees of our school pictures, learned a few things, forgotten a lot more, outgrown embarrassments, forgiven slights and are finally comfortable with who we are.

There’s nothing wrong with “new”; where would we be without something new coming into our lives every so often?  “New” replacing “old” is what makes the world go around, but please, let’s not replace everything, at least not right away.  We old people will be recycled soon enough; let us enjoy each other and our precious old treasures as long as we can. I’d like to get at least another five years out of this sweatshirt.


How  To Kill  A Harmless Houseplant

On the off chance that you have any house plants you’d like to get rid of for some weird reason,  I’m your gal. I come with a 100% guarantee of satisfaction. I could almost work up a little sideline in plant removal if there was enough demand.  I’d get both of my black thumbs insured or patented or whatever might be called for.

My method is simple and humane. I kill with kindness and the very best of intentions.  No neglected, overlooked or forgotten plants on my watch. No dead, dessicated twigs or crumbling leaves desperate for water or food.  That’s not my way at all. My plants expire quietly.

Well, almost. They may strangle and drown, gurgling and holding their little plant noses as I pour more and more fresh water over them and they sink for the 3d or even the 4th time, but they do get watered.  As for food, my system is simple. If a pinch is good a tablespoon or maybe two will be even better. I’m so afraid the little dears will die of starvation.

I once killed a pot of artificial ivy. Real ivy is difficult to get rid of for most people, although it’s never been much of a problem for me with my particular talents.  However, the artificial type was a little more complicated. In a fit of absentmindedness I began to water it as faithfully as I watered each of my real plants, until I was finally forced to notice the water wasn’t going anywhere. It had filled up the container and begun to rust all the wire stems. The leaves had been made of  cloth coated in something and and were rotting away into a gummy mess..

The only plant I ever had any luck with was a Chia Pet my husband gave  our cat, Samson, one year for Christmas. The idea was that when the greens grew to full size, they be as tempting as catnip and Samson would love them.

I followed all the directions meticulously and grew a gorgeous crop.  The trouble was Samson was totally uninterested. Even as I plucked a few sprouts and nibbled on them myself to show him how tasty they were, he merely sat and gazed at me with that impassive cat look that says  “You know you’re being an idiot and you know I know you are but I’ll keep your secret.”

So much for the Chia Pet. It was exiled to the patio where even the neighborhood strays left it alone.

I’ve mourned each and every plant I’ve managed to kill. They never deserved a monster like me.  I do yearn for a home full of living, flourishing greenery and beautiful blooms. I drop in on my friends from time to time. They all have lovely plants and I’m welcome to visit, but I have to promise ahead of time that I won’t touch any of them.

Blarney as Our Second Language

(This is a three-peat from the past two years. I still think it’s a good idea!)

Shure and haven’t I been speakin’ the Blarney since I was a wee lass?

Okay, enough of the phony Irish brogue.  I never was good at it anyway. I just wanted to emphasize the fact that Blarney, that soothing, delightful manner of addressing others, is a great way to communicate. You don’t have to be Irish to speak it but it doesn’t hurt.

Blarney just might be the universal second language our world needs, long sought after, a means of expression understood by everyone.

So what is Blarney anyway?  Well, all you need is a soft smile and a sweet, sly voice, or maybe a soft voice and a sweet, sly smile.  Sometimes called the Gift O’ Gab, sometimes schmoozing, or soft soap, it’s occasionally rather insultingly referred to as B.S.  The Blarney is a much kinder means of communicating, the idea being to establish a good feeling with the person to whom you are speaking.  A tiny white lie is never amiss as long as it makes your listener feel good.

Blarney is the perfect language to use with curmudgeons, crabs and cold hearts, or anyone having an off day.  When voices get tense and an argument seems imminent, lay on the Blarney and talk the combatants down. When spirits are low, Blarney is the way to cheer people up, flattering the bejabbers out of them.

For example, you haven’t slept, the bags under your eyes could hold bowling balls and you look like you barely survived The Perfect Storm.  Do you want to hear “Ye gods, what a mess. What happened to you? Go back to bed and get up again.”

Or would you rather hear  “Oh, you poor love, you aren’t quite yourself, want to tell me about it?”  That’s a no-brainer and that’s why the person now speaking to you just became your new best friend.  So you’re being schmoozed, you know it, it feels good and so do you.

There is a lot of Blarney going around right here at our retirement residence. I hear it all the time and I love it.  Whatever the reason, our age group, our similarities, the fact that we all have one foot on the proverbial banana peel, it’s beautiful to our ears.  Maybe we’re just naturally nice people; whatever, schmoozing is soothing.

Oh sure, there are always those who can’t resist a snide remark or a snarky comment but they’re few and far between and they just need a good dose of Blarney to calm them down.

If only our world leaders would learn to use the Blarney, think of the benefits.  Our legislators need to start addressing one another as “The esteemed gentlewoman or gentleman from the great State of Euphoria”  without the undercurrent of sarcasm we hear so often.

They could then communicate with representatives of the most powerful countries of the world at the next Global Summit in an equally sincere, flattering fashion, thereby setting the stage for success.  Imagine a Global Round Table discussion right here in our own country with current world leaders together.

A surprisingly affable Donald Trump is welcoming all the delegates with open arms.  Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu are questioning Kim Jung Un about the efficacy of Rogaine on male pattern baldness.  Jung Un, who resembles an overwatered Chia Pet with a bad dye job, is nodding vigorously, repeating over and over, “Is good, is good” in Korean Blarney.

Angela Merkel and Xi Jinping are happily trading recipes for Rouladen and General Tso’s Chicken.  Emmanuel Macron and Teresa May have set aside centuries of dissension to agree on the proper pronunciation of such common words as CHANNEL versus CHENEL or the usage of LOO versus PISSOIR.  Pope Francis and Italy’s Conte toast the fact that neither has ever owed the other rent or taxes; and so it might go.

The African contingent and the Scandinavians are smiling, deep in conversation, as are the Central and South Americans. The Canadians are arm in arm with the Greeks, learning traditional  dances. The bad boys from ISIS have been exiled to the kiddies’ table in the corner until they agree to shape up.

Each session begins and ends with the delegates clasping hands, swaying slightly and singing  “Kumbaya.” Pots of herbal tea and platters of Snickerdoodle cookies are consumed. The warm fuzzies break out all over, all because everyone is speaking our common language, the Blarney!

Hey, it’s worth a try!!

Erin Go Bragh!

Spring  Forward, Fall Back Redux

Or: Some Things Never Change;  Understanding The D.U.H. Syndrome

I wish I could remember the sequence of events that got me in so much trouble one recent Spring  evening as I busied myself changing clocks for the Daylight Savings Time switch. I clearly recall repeating over and over to myself   “Spring Forward, Fall Back,” even as I carefully turned every set of hands or electronic numerals back one hour on every clock I own. We all know how many timepieces that can be in this electronic age.  Little green, yellow and red faces blink and wink at us in every room. As I dutifully turned every one of those clocks from 9:00 p.m. back to 8:00 p.m., I smugly recited my mantra; “Spring Forward…..”

It was Sunday morning before I realized how badly I’d goofed, and I can only say it was fortunate I didn’t have a job to get to, or a plane to catch. I would have been very annoyed in spite of the extra sleep.

There’s a name for people like me who think one thing and do another.  We’re afflicted with DETAILS-UN-HINGED Syndrome, better known by its acronym  D.U.H. We’re also prone to saying one thing and doing the opposite. We turn left when everyone else turns right, and we always, always forget names.  We may have an I.Q. to rival Marilyn vos Savant, and the know-how to translate the Abyssinian alphabet into High German but when it gets down to nitty-gritty time we’re all candidates for D.U.H.   There seems to be no cure; we’re doomed to spend our lives apologizing and explaining.

Now don’t try to deny it, those of you who are even now putting your car keys in the refrigerator.  You know who you are, we’re all in this together. D.U.H. can strike anyone at any time, although advancing age seems to make it worse.  Male or female, country of origin, urban or rural background, income level, there’s almost no hope.

I seem to be especially bad with timepieces.  I spent weeks last winter staring at my new Timex, wishing the date would change at midnight instead of noon.  I even read the directions as a last resort. I hardly knew whether it was yesterday or tomorrow until some kindly soul suggested I advance the dial 12 hours.  Now why hadn’t I thought of that? D.U.H., of course.

I’m especially vulnerable when it comes to elevator buttons and seat belt locks,  A ride on an elevator with me, especially anywhere above Floor 2 is a real adventure as I push buttons with the abandon of a 3 year old.  I’m particularly adept at pushing OPEN for CLOSE, or vice versa. Symbols only make it worse. D.U.H. again.

I’ve always maintained that inanimate objects of all sorts are out to get me, seat belt locks being especially mean and nasty.  In the event of a real need I already know I’ll be a goner. Why couldn’t all seat belt locks have a universal fastener in case we’re in a taxi or some other vehicle we’re not used to? I refuse to bear all the responsibility for this by myself.

Ever stand in front of a rack of grocery items at the supermarket, reading all the info on a certain package, only to reach up and select the package right next to it, the one that contains a totally different product?  Yep, me too. One of the most infuriating examples of Details-Unhinged.

And it’s not just me. I remember a time when everyone except the hostess laughed uproariously when a fellow D.U.H. sufferer showed up two hours early for our usual Bloody Mary get-together prior to a Sunday brunch.

I know a bright young female engineer who sat in a heavily mirrored restaurant one evening, wondering seriously why all the EXIT signs read backwards as if in code,  TIX3. And even my salty old sea-dog sailor of a husband actually confused port and starboard in his later years.

I tell you, no one is exempt.  If your life has been blighted by the D.U.H. Syndrome, stories about you are already making the rounds.  Details-Un-Hinged welcomes you to our group. While we have no advice for you or your condition, we do offer our heartfelt sympathy as we busily stir cat food into the tuna casserole for tonight’s dinner.  (That’s OUR dinner, not the cat’s.)

The  Junk Drawer

Every household has one, mine included. In fact I have several.  I’ve always questioned why the use of the singular “junk drawer”  when the plural “drawers” is much more appropriate. I also have junk shelves in junk cupboards, junk closets and junk rooms, all plural.  Obviously I’m not a very tidy person.

What may have started out way back when as a good idea quickly got out of control. One drawer, usually in the kitchen, to be set aside just for the accumulation of those necessary odds and ends that don’t seem to belong anywhere else.

My junk drawer started out holding a few awkwardly shaped kitchen tools that didn’t fit in a smaller drawer or belong to a set. It soon became a catch-all in which to temporarily toss anything loose that needed a home.

Recently, out of curiosity, I took a serious look into my several junk drawers and was absolutely floored by the variety and quantity of items which could only be called junk.  Most of the original tools were still there somewhere, hidden by more junk than seemed possible.

My potato masher, the kitchen shears, a wine bottle opener that really works, several spatulas, the world’s best little knife sharpener and a package of wooden skewers all belonged there, as well as several types and kinds of jar and can openers, including a pliers.

All well and good, but by now I was intrigued and began turning out the contents of several more drawers.  I found:

An empty prescription bottle

6 blue, 3 red and a yellow rubber bands

A used emery board

The long lost keys to a car I sold in 2013

Countless clippies of all sizes, meant to close bags

A wooden clothespin

Several pieces of string, random lengths

A book of matches from a motel in Lander, Wy. How old was that? Do

they still make book matches? Was it safe to strike one?

Several packets of mustard and mayo

7 packets of Splenda

Sample bottles of hand lotion, shampoo and laundry soap

A dog-eared shopping list reminding me to buy baby food. Since my

baby is now 68 years old, it had to be for a grand- or a great-grand


Quite a few pencil stubs, all in need of sharpening

29 various colored plastic tabs to seal loaves of bread

Uncounted numbers of toothpicks

3 totally unidentifiable objects.

After this archeological dig, I’m convinced most of the stuff multiplies and divides behind our backs. It’s probably dangerous too, if not radioactive  or toxic. At least there didn’t seem to be anything living in my drawers…..not yet……

I’m a great believer in keeping things that may come in handy some day but I think even I’ve reached my limit. I’m very much afraid this can mean only one thing – a serious housecleaning.  Horrors!