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Nov 19

Features other animals have that I want

Posted on Saturday, November 19, 2011 in humor, Me

I could go down a tree face first!

When I was small I had freckles only over my nose and cheeks. I really wanted them to circle around my eyes so I could have a mask like a raccoon. I eventually got over that.  I don’t think I have the nose or cheek bones to pull that look off.

 

I also wanted a prehensile tail that I could use to carry things or hang from trees. I still think that would be awesome. I thought having a fly swatter attachment would be just perfect for the summer. Also still a good idea.

 

As I’ve aged I’ve wanted other things. Right now I want a nictitating membrane for my eyes. “This clear eyelid can be drawn across the eyeball for protection from debris, prey, or the dryness of air, similarly to regular eyelids.” Perfect. Why didn’t we evolve these? I could have the windows rolled down in the car, stand in the smoke of a camp fire, and never worry about snow blindness nor about how dry the house gets. Plus how cool would it be to roll your eyes AND close your nictitating membrane to show disdain?

 

I also want to be able to swim without really having to learn. In other words I want a swim bladder. I’ve never been able to tread water and I’m sure a swim bladder would be a tremendous help. I think this organ evolved into lungs in mammals, and while I do love having lungs, I don’t understand why I can’t have both. I’m not asking for gills after all, just a bladder that I can fill with air when I want to. And with the addition of the nictitating membrane I could finally open my eyes under water!

Nov 4

Deployment treasure map

Posted on Friday, November 4, 2011 in Army wife, Me

I’ve been surprised by how much I’m missing my husband lately. We’re not halfway through the deployment yet—getting close though—and I’m feeling a little lost. So I’m going to go through a bit of a self-inventory and share it with you. (Actually I’m sharing more for the benefit of a future me.)

First, I’m going to get out a little anger that our soldiers keep re-deploying. We shouldn’t be able to learn from the first and second deployments in order to deal with the subsequent ones. I’m sure there are a lot of doctoral theses being written because the length of our wars provides so much data. Soldiers have always been good, easily captured research subjects.

But back to me. I was very prepared at the beginning of the deployment. I had gone through a sizeable portion of my grief over Mom’s death. I had trips planned to see my brother’s family and to go canoeing. I had enough work to make me feel productive, and still had plenty of time to garden. I even created this treasure map at my in-laws. My MIL and I each thought about what we wanted to happen in our own lives while the soldier boy was away. That’s mine below.

I’ve actually done pretty well. I have made an effort to stay in touch with friends. I’m not great at that, I tend to forget that I need to work on friendships. And I can spend too much time alone.

HabMoo and I have been communicating well and expressing love as best a couple can over the Internet ether. No real fights. No protracted times of feeling like we just aren’t connecting. (Those times do happen. His energy is low, or mine is, or Skype keeps failing as we try to talk. I don’t think there’s any way around that. We just don’t let them scare us.)

What else in on that construction paper? Boots. Yes, I did buy another pair of cowboy boots. I see two boots on there so I guess I get to buy another pair. I better save that for February. Or maybe later this month. Or whenever that metalic silver pair goes on sale.

Fitness. I joined a gym and have been go regularly. My heart thanks me, I am sure. I walked almost every day during the early summer before I got the membership. I discovered a Three Rivers Park nearby and plan to go cross country skiing there if we get good snow and weather.

I’m not so sure that I have met the embrace change challenge, but I’m getting better at that all the time. In fact, I feel like another sizable change in me is on its way. Maybe it’ll be me becoming freespirited. That’s not how I would ever describe myself. Others might. But there’s a difference between not caring what others think, knowing that they always think differently than you anyway, and being a free spirit. I have plenty of internal restraints. A full cupboard of them. Maybe more of a pantry.

50 Uses for Your Cat. Yeah, I’m going to fail that one. I think I’ve become better trained by my cats in the last few months. I jump even more quickly for them. They have perfected their pitiful cries and demanding yowls. And the neighbor trapping one of them didn’t help matters.  I think they have found more uses for me than I have for them.

The last is the house for sale. I’m working on that. The realtor (trademarked professional) is already sending us emails. I’ve been packing up a few things getting ready to show the house. I’m not terribly optimistic about the market, but I think we’ll be able to sell it and find something we like. Our requirements are pretty minimal.

Best for Whatever seems to sum it up pretty well. Whatever comes along, I have to believe that I’ll be ready for it. I hate the way the word whatever is used these days to dismiss another’s comments, to acquiesce to the inevitable, to fill space between verbalizations. Whatever, the way I see it, is more like Doris Day’s que sera, sera. The wheel of fortune turns and you’re off on a new adventure.

Wow. I sound positively optimistic and brave. Honestly, I am trying to rein in my fantasies about my husband’s homecoming. I’m trying not to speed past the holidays. I’m trying to dance to the beat here and now in this room instead of the ones in my head and heart and spleen (does anxiety live in the spleen? Let’s say it does.) But right now I do feel capable of feeling lonely every night without feeling truly alone. And I’m very sure that I’ll be able to give up the body pillow once the man is home.

Oct 16

Soothing my cervix

Posted on Sunday, October 16, 2011 in Me

My cervix is chronically irritated. What am I to do? I do not have cancer; I do not have HPV; but I have had positive PAP results since 2002.

What could be irritating my cervix? It’s not like it has to help kids with homework, or put together IKEA furniture, or buy groceries on a Friday after work. It doesn’t have a bank account or in-laws or drive an old car. So how am I supposed to calm it down?

Are there meditation classes for the cervix? Should I download the sounds of a wooden flute playing over the sounds of waves breaking upon a beach? And then hold my iPod between my legs as I play it?

Can a cervix hold a grudge? Should I take it in for counseling? Help it work through its issues with the neighboring uterus? Maybe it learned that my vagina is longer and it has short cervix syndrome? Or maybe it’s upset with me for not allowing it to “ripen” and let a baby pass through? (I did not know that the cervix would ripen. According to one website it means the same thing as softening. But I immediately pictured it turning swelling up, turning red, and falling out. Eek.)

Maybe my cervix is just grossed out. The PAP results keep showing problems with its squamous cells. That’s a great Scrabble word, but it sounds icky. If I learned that someone called me squamous I’d be upset, but I think I’d get over in a matter of weeks, not years. I’d be a little upset maybe, but not inflamed.

Maybe I just have a crotchety cervix. Like the Andy Rooney of my reproductive system.

My cervix seem to have been irritated ever since I started having sex with the opposite sex. Is my cervix a committed radical lesbian separatist cervix? It’s possible I suppose, but even when my husband has been deployed for months on end, it’s still been irritated.

What if it just likes being the center of attention? I’ve had four different doctors during this cervical hysteria so I don’t think my cervix has a crush on my doctor. Maybe it’s a masochist who likes the pain of a colposcopy (biopsy procedure.)

If my latest PAP results are also positive I may be taking a trip to Mayo where I hope they will serenade my cervix and make it feel pretty and the center of attention. If they do another colposcopy I expect them to use only the finest white wine vinegar—maybe with just a hint of tarragon. The Mayo is a class act, right?

If this post made you feel a bit uncomfortable, do not do any Google searches. You’ll find photos one woman took of her own cervix every day for a month. Mine will not be getting that kind of attention. I don’t care how irritated it gets.

Sep 4

What I learned as a child that you probably didn’t

Posted on Sunday, September 4, 2011 in family, Me

From Daddy

Only Daddy can use the horse medicine
Sometimes Daddy would come in from the barn with purple splotches on his skin. I envied these, but was not allowed to use the horse antiseptic myself.

Sometimes teeth can be found in the barn

My father did not like to wear his teeth. But back in the days when he was trying to get used to them, he would take them out when his mouth got too sore and then he’d lose them. He found them in the barn more than once. And once he picked them off the bale of hay and put them back in when someone came by.

Falling Rock is a missing Indian boy

I loved hearing the story of why there are highway signs asking people to watch for Falling Rock. I hope he’s reunited with his mother someday soon and they move back to the mountains he loves so much.

From Mom

Bread and butter saves relationships

See frames around 5:49

Whenever two people are walking and something comes between them like a post or a tree, you must say “bread and butter” or you will fight. I taught this to my great-nephews and great-niece this spring. I’ve got to do all I can to keep those relationship strong so they’ll visit me in the nursing home.

Friends, foes, money, beaus, travel

Look at your fingernails. If there’s a spot on your thumb then you have a new friend in your future. If you have one on your index finger, you’ll make (or have made) a new enemy. You get the idea. There’s nothing in my future.

From my sister

You can be identified by your bite marks

Yes, I frequently bit my sister when I was little. But she was a lot bigger than me and she would sometimes hit. You can also be identified by a handprint left on a thigh.

Aug 19

Confessions, aka TMI

Posted on Friday, August 19, 2011 in Me

I’ve had a sinus infection and cold this week. After I ran out of tissues (I only use Puffs–one of the only brands to which I am loyal) for a while I just let my nose just drip onto my t-shirt. Once that made me feel too gross I used clean cotton underwear to collect my snot.

This is one reason why I should not be allowed to live alone.

After realizing that no one was going to see me in my underwear for almost a year, I went out and bought granny underwear. I am so comfortable right now. Nothing riding up, nothing falling down, nothing too tight. It was so comforting to have granny panties to wear while I was sick. (I recall Mom complaining when I was around age 6 that she and I were wearing the same sized underpants. I love feeling loose and free, but I worry that I’ll wet my pants if I don’t have underwear on. It could happen; it’s too risky to try.)

I sometimes don’t bother with a spoon when eating fruit out of a bowl. I just suck the stuff into my face. It’s fruit. Fruit is meant to drip down your chin.

One reason why I should not eat in front of other people.

I am once again playing the games Phantom Brave and Dawn of War: Dark Crusade. I can play the same game for 100s of hours. I am not only a cheap date, I am also a cheap gamer. This time around I am playing Phantom Brave with only the Putty characters and I just won. That does not mean that I will stop playing, however.

I am a slave to food in my refrigerator. Right now I must get through the giant tub of yogurt, freezer jam a friend gave me, some cheese I bought by accident and which contains peppers I do not like, and the damn celery I bought when I must have been possessed by an alien who wanted to learn about how chewing works. I have made three meals out of a Chipotle burrito even though the guacamole was brown because I could not throw it away. Yesterday I ate the last of the potatoes and felt great relief. I blame my mother for teaching me this food guilt and the  onus of food responsibility. It drives HabMoo crazy.

I know what one reader is thinking. “But you have salad dressing that’s over 2 years old!” So what? I will not be cowed by condiments! Things in bottles have no power over me. Unless it’s shampoo. I will be so happy when I use up my current smelly shampoo and can start of the good stuff.

I eat stale foods. As a wedding gift, a friend of mine gave me an open bag of Cheetos because I LOVE stale, orange, puffed cheese stuff. This week I finished a bag of stale chips. (Food really doesn’t have to be cold in order to make me feel obligated to eat it.) This I blame on the neighbor lady next door when I was growing up. Her kids and I would charge into her kitchen and beg for food. She’d respond by giving us whatever she wanted to get rid of. So I have clear memories of eating stale Saltines and stale coconut flakes.

I argue a lot with my cats. I always lose. I blame my mother for that. She used to sit at the very edge of her chair during meals because our cat, Penny, would be sitting on her chair. Mom never wanted to bother her or make her get down. This annoyed my father, who in later years, would turn the AC on for their Himalayan cat.

I don’t always read all pages of a book. For example, right now I’m reading one of the Game of Thrones books and I skip right over the chapters about characters I don’t find interesting. When I re-read Lord of the Rings, sometimes I skip past Tom Bombadil.

There are people who actually respect me and love me. Go figure. For them I am grateful. I clean up OK when necessary. Observation changes the one observed. I need to be watched.

Aug 10

Fitting into fitness

Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 in Army wife, Me

What I want right now is a salt lick for humans—something salty not covering a chip or cracker. I’d usually crave the chip, but right now I just want the salt.

I am back from working out at the gym. Yep,  I said it. I have been working out at a gym. I even own some gym clothes. This bothers me.

I do not own cropped yoga pants. I haven't fallen that far.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, an athlete. My high school girlfriend made me learn tennis and play on the school team one year. I did play varsity badminton without urging, and loved it, but that’s the sole athletic endeavor I’ve ever really enjoyed. Oh, and hiking, which I’m not sure counts because there are no rules and no special equipment is necessary.

 

I joined a gym because the geeky boy I married is turning into a geeky biker and runner. He keeps growing more muscles. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to keep up with him since he’s got so many fewer years slowing him down, but I want to hike up a hill with him and not keep stopping along the way to wait for me to stop panting like an overheated shar-pei.

So I looked around and found a gym with “free” tai chi and yoga classes. I figured those would be more gentle ways of encouraging myself to activity. I could do those a few times a week and later think about doing more on my own. Joining the fitness center—they aren’t called gyms any longer, I guess—was a cultural experience.

Apparently this fitness center caters to cougars. I really hate that term, but it seems appropriate here. There was an attractive young man at the front desk, an attractive young man to give me a tour, and an attractive young man to give me my free session with a trainer. They smiled, they talked about how clean everything was, they asked me questions about myself, and they pushed offers on me like my Aunt Mil would push her homemade cookies. When I hesitated about an offer, mostly because I was still in shock to be in such a place, they’d offer a slightly better deal—available only if I signed up today. They had me agreeing to all sorts of obvious things, saying yes to their questions, and then slipping in the question about what package deal did I want to buy. They were well-taught salesmen.

I bought a membership. The place was clean like they said. It was uncrowded. There were lots of shiny pieces of equipment. There was a sauna which I’d probably never use, but I’m from Minnesota where saunas are heavenly places in the winter. I did not buy the services of a personal trainer, however. First of all, the number of pretty boys walking around made me wonder if any of them felt like gigolos. I felt like I was being manipulated by testosterone. Also I was asked why I wanted to work out and what goals I had. I talked about wanting to avoid another should injury, wanting to build bone density, and wanting to increase my endurance. The handsome dude just kept talking to me about weight loss and looking better. I did get him down from $50 an hour to $25 before I had sat long enough to regain enough strength to walk back out the door. Oh, and I think he’s starting to bald on top.

My first yoga class was taught by a tall transvestite. I’m sure he’s a straight and very masculine transvestite. Don’t ask me how I know this. I read Blink and learned about someone spotting a forgery in a manner of seconds, So I’m confident in the snap judgment I made with no real evidence. He’s the only one of their yoga teachers I’m actually comfortable with. The others move much too quickly and I’ve left their classes with sore wrists.

Mostly I now go to do whatever the proper verb is for using the elliptical machine. Walk? Ramble? Circle? Row? I do whatever it is and sweat into my eyes while listening to audio books. I find that I almost enjoy it. I like being read to and it helps me avoid the Kardashians who seem to be on at least one TV screen at all times of the day. (I now know that Kardashians are humanoids and that somehow an Olympian is related to them.)

I’ve learned how to lengthen my workout by my choice of books. For example, right now I listen to The Poisoner’s Handbook until I start to feel queasy. I tell myself it’s the book and not the exercise. I stop, take a sip of water, change the audio track to Bossypants and let Tina Fey get my energy level back up for another 20 minutes. This works better than listening to women with British accents read me a novel. That works for walking around the neighborhood, but is too somnambulant for strenuous exercise.

I have been working out almost daily now for three weeks. I have lost the 3 pounds I gained during the first week. My heart rate no longer shoots into the 90% range as soon as I near any equipment. I have learned how to get into and out of sport tops so I’m feeling pretty good. But last night during my second Latin Heat class the instructor stopped class to ask if I was OK. After class I caught a glimpse of my face and saw why she asked. I was purple. It’s not a good shade for someone sporting copper-red hair.

I still have to practice thinking of myself as someone who works out. I am trying to think of it as an extension of the Army wife thing. It’s what Army wives do when their husbands are away. It’s not who I am. It’s just a way of coping. This doesn’t really help but will have to do for now.

HabMoo has said that he will be writing a blog post about his own self-loathing about becoming a biker and someone who runs in the heat of the desert. Maybe we’ll bond over this, but I prefer bonding over Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones, and Disgaea.

Mar 14

Me, Mom, and body image

Posted on Monday, March 14, 2011 in Me, Mom

I started this post before Mom died and found that I couldn’t write while her body, her heart, was failing her. So I’ll attempt it once more.

Mom was not athletic or particularly proud of her body. Not until she had dementia did I ever hear her refer to her body with pride. At age 88 she let it slip that she thought she looked better in her jeans than anyone else at “the home.” She was correct.

I feel lucky to have grown up in a home that really didn’t pay much attention to body image. Nor did anyone show any shame. I don’t recall Mom ever shutting a bathroom door. I find this hard to believe as an adult, imagining how the bathroom could be the one place you could be alone as a mother, but perhaps my sister and I were very independent kids.

Mom was never embarrassed when I asked her questions most kids probably have. I remember asking her, while we were bathing together, why people had hair on different parts of their body. She tried to explain pubic hair. I was curious about eyebrows. Around this time I really wanted a raccoon mask and a monkey tail and was probably hoping I could grow out my eyebrows until they covered my entire face. I think she told me that we had eyebrows to shade our eyes. How dull.

Later, in first or second grade there was a playground argument about where babies come out. Most kids thought that babies came out the mother’s butt like poop. I insisted that this was not the case, but I just wasn’t sure. So Mom showed me on my own body. That was the end of that issue ’cause it is absolutely impossible for a little girl to imagine pushing out a baby from that small little opening. It hardly gets any easier after you’re an adult.

I only remember being embarrassed once about my body or my attire. The girl next door liked to be outdoors without a shirt like her brother. And my cousins came over and the boys and younger girls were all topless so I decided to try it to. Not a problem. Until we all got into the pony cart and someone decided to take pictures. I’m not sure if I was embarrassed to have my photo taken because my nipples showed, or because I was doing something like a boy. My guess is that since I was about 5 it was probably the gender bending that bothered me.

It seems like most girls argue with their mothers about wanting to wear skimpy clothes. My mother made me mid-drift shirts, taught me how to make a halter top out of a scarf, and let me go to school in a smock top with hot pants shorter than the top. My high school home ec sewing project was a Daisy Mae tie front crop top. I never thought about any of this clothing as being sexy or revealing or anything. I don’t think my sister had any mini skirt arguments with Mom during the late 60s either.

I know that when I tell this story the listeners are a little horrified, but I wasn’t. When I was in sixth grade I had bites or a rash across my breasts that just wouldn’t go away. Mom wasn’t sure what caused this problem so while eating dinner with my grandparents she asked me to pull down my tube top so everyone could take a look. I did it and not until afterward did I think that was a little unusual.

I recall teasing Mom, telling her I didn’t want any fat mama, when I was young. But I don’t think she ever dieted or had any weight issues. My sister dieted in high school a bit, but in order to gain some weight. I was a size 5 in high school and ate whatever I wanted. I think weight wasn’t an issue because we had so much home grown foods,  no pop unless we were sick or Daddy wanted some, and I lived on peanut butter anyway. I didn’t have any weight issues until I started living with an obese person.

No one in the family was an athlete. Dad had muscles from working. I don’t think Mom had any. She claimed that she couldn’t reach down and touch her toes without bending her knees until after her first child was born. But after about age 70 she really started to limber up. You’d ask her how she was doing and she’d declare “I can still got my foot in the sink” meaning she could lift it up and into the sink. I’m not really sure why she did this, but it must have been a regular occurrence. Maybe that’s how she clipped her toenails.

Many girls have dramatic stories about their first menstruation. I knew exactly what was happening and told Mom. Her response was something like “I wonder if we have anything for that. I hope your sister left something.” She was already through menopause. That was pretty much our entire talk, beyond me asking if I could use tampons and her saying yes, but that she didn’t like them herself. I told Mom and Dad both if I needed any additional supplies. I was surprised to find out that my best friend had already started her period and hadn’t told me. Where I grew up everyone would know. I’d go back and visit with old friends and get the entire listing of girls who had crossed into that stage of growth. It really wasn’t much different than talking about which guys were shaving.

It’s too bad that there are so many messages out there about how sexual or flawed a woman’s body is because I did not learn any of that at home. I no longer feel so comfortable with my body. I look at wrinkles differently and no longer want them to become as deep as my grandfather’s were. I look at my stomach and feel fat. I wonder if I’m showing too much cleavage. I miss the innocence I was able to keep in early adulthood.

Mom never lost it, as far as I could tell. I once asked her about the very large varicose vein on her ankle and she told me that sometimes it scared her when she’d see it out of the side of her eye and think it was a snake. Otherwise it didn’t bother her. I pointed out that I bought her a shirt with 3/4 length sleeves so no one would notice her floppy arms. Her response was “I don’t care if anyone else sees that. I just don’t want to have to look at it.” She made Daddy show me the dimples that had developed near his hip bones after he turned 80 or so. She was curious about what happened to their bodies as they grew old. She came out of the shower once when I was in the bathroom with her and laughed at me when I turned away. She warned me that I was just seeing what was going to happen to me in the future. During her first visit to the nursing home she almost changed clothes in front of her grand-daughter’s husband. OK some of that lack of judgment could be attributed to delirium but she probably thought that since she was keeping on her underwear he could just politely look away as she changed.

I remember the time on our way to her eye doctor when she informed me that she had lost her belly button and we looked for it together while waiting for a light to turn. That misplacement can be attributed solely to her dementia. She didn’t normally lose track of her body parts, she just wasn’t worried about how they looked or what people thought of them.

Dec 3

My DiSC profile

Posted on Friday, December 3, 2010 in Me

I’m working with DiscProfiles.com and they generously allowed me to take their Everything DiSC Workplace profile. So for those of you who are curious and might only know me as a Myers Briggs INTJ or as “Be bold, be brief, be gone,” here are more details.

I’m a slight C style.

I don’t have a secondary style which makes me feel both a little ripped off and kind of proud of my solid position in the C quadrant. But since my dot is so close to the middle, it does mean that I only slightly inclined to the C personality traits and behaviors. In other words, I tend towards accuracy, stability and challenge, but this tendency is slight. The example my personalized profile uses is “if you have to choose between ensuring accuracy or generating enthusiasm, for example, you’re slightly more likely to choose accuracy.” That is certainly true.

Most of the commentary on my style preferences is accurate. I am on “the systematic side” in that I love systems and creating systems. I don’t always follow them, however, even while respecting them. I do indeed enjoy stability but I’ve certainly made some rash decisions in my life. Just not with finances or selecting what book to read next.

“You prize your independence.” Why, yes, I do. I “show a good deal of self-control and may not come across as terribly expressive.” I do over-do the self-control most of the time. But I hope I’m learning to be more expressive. I mean I’ve started to wear colors like pink and red and embrace my love of cowboy boots. That’s something, right?

“Although you pride yourself on the quality of your work, you may shy away from public recognition.” That’s a problem when you’re a consultant. I need to get over that.

“Social events that require a lot of mingling with strangers my leave you feeling drained.” That is an understatement. I can go to networking events, but I can’t stay for long. I can’t even feel comfortable having more than one friend over at a time. So strangers, when I meet you please excuse my lack of expression and the fact that I can’t talk for long. You might be fascinating and engaging, but I still need to go. In addition to my personality issues, my family never taught me social manners, so the less time I spend in any formal setting, the less apt I am to make a faux pas.

And I live with a C

I know the profile is for the workplace, but I found a few interesting notes that could apply to home. HabMoo is a moderately-inclined C .

This means that we think other people are crazy for the same reasons. We’re both “fairly determined that your way is the right way.” Well, duh. We’ve analyzed the situation thoroughly. Case in point: cable TV is a waste of money and time. It matters not that almost all of our friends disagree.  But we’re both very forgiving of our friends and their ignorance, though, so we won’t dump you just because you watch a lot of cable TV.

Here’s our big issue. “… if the two of you have conflicting viewpoints you may think she comes across as stubborn and unyielding.” I know that I often think this is true of HabMoo. I can imagine him thinking I’m stubborn and therefore just ignoring me. I think that’s why there are two sets of drums in the basement. My protests were acknowledged and then ignored. And I ignore almost all of his unyielding political arguments.

I can tell he’s more comfortable with the C style of being cautious. Even though he did marry me just before going off to war, he takes tremendous care in making other decisions. Maybe he took just as much care in that one, but I don’t like to think of myself as having been analyzed with the same thoroughness as he researched which board game to buy. He makes many fewer typos than I do and loses almost nothing. I lose keys, gloves, hats, and such on a fairly regular basis.

At work

I can see how DiSC could be useful at work. The profile tells you how to build more effective working relationships. As a former manager, I would have found this very helpful. I need reminders on how to work with those I see as overly emotional or social and to let people know what I’m thinking. And I can see why I was so stressed out before I quit my last full-time job. Stability and logic were rather lacking there at the time.

More about the DiSC C style.

By the way, the website is being redesigned and re-written. If you take a peek now, I promise that it will be much better in a couple of months.

Oct 22

Great aunts

Posted on Friday, October 22, 2010 in family, Me

I’m not only a great-aunt. I am a great-great aunt. With all those greats I should be a fantastic aunt. But I doubt that I am. But I’m probably as good as my own great-aunts were.

Great Aunt BlancheAunt Blanche
She had a home made doll’s dress cover for her toilet paper that she kept on the back of the toilet. That’s about all I remember about her. She died just before she hit 100 years old. I don’t do anything for my toilet paper and I’m not even 50. So I guess she wins. I named my first vehicle—a yellow Ford pickup truck—after her. I’m not sure why now. And both Ethiopian bread and mullein leaves remind me of the fabric used for that strange doll/toilet-paper-cover dress.

Aunt Ivy
In my child’s mind, she was one strange lady. An ancient and strange lady who always sent me white socks for Christmas. Always. The only good thing about this was that Mom and Dad let me open her gift on the night before Christmas Eve. It was a Christmas tradition. I only give Christmas presents to my nieces who I know best. I almost never give gifts to the next generation, although I do put some money into their college accounts. So she might trump me here. As far as I know she gave all her nieces socks for Xmas or stockings if they were older.


Not her actual glass eye.

I recall visiting Aunt Ivy a few times a year. The visit got creepy as soon as we stopped at her house. As you walked up to her door and it got dark. She must have had large trees, but all I remember is the sun vanishing. Then there she was with only one breast and a fake eye. And this eye did not fit her. Sometimes it was covered with gunk. Mom told me later that she had bought the eye via mail order. My house and my eyes are not scary. OK, I do have all those skulls that line my sidewalk, but that’s not creepy. It’s eccentric. And all my own body parts are pretty normal.

Aunt Ivy always greeted me and my sister with an offering of candy. It was usually M & Ms in a bowl—a single clump of M & Ms. They were so old the sugar had started to turn a little gray. I think we ate them, anyway, just out of a sense of obligation. I don’t have any candy in my house unless it’s left-over Halloween candy. But I never remember I have it, so I think I win for not offering any to young visitors who don’t come dressed in costumes.

Great Aunt IvyThere was nothing to do at Aunt Ivy’s house. My sister and I sat on the floor in the darkness caused by all the plants that surrounded and covered her windows and we played Chinese checkers. I became quite good at the game and still enjoy it. On the floor was a piece of wood that had some sort of sentimental value, a bouncy ball you couldn’t play with because of all the antiques everywhere, and a couch shell. I have video games. And my husband had drums. I win here.

I recall arriving once around a meal time and she had a table set for what seemed like several people. There was meat and a couple of vegetables, some other stuff, and a custard pie. I remember the pie because I love custard pie, but I don’t think she offered me any. She had an overly large sink in her kitchen that maybe had a pump for water. I don’t recall that clearly, but I do know that she had a metal dipper at the sink and I got to drink water out of it. To my mind it was just like the dipper Cinderella offered to the Prince. I don’t live up to this mystery and wonder with my tiny galley kitchen built in the 50s.

She used to talk about the Youngstown Reunion. I had never heard of an entire town having a reunion. I didn’t even bother attending any of my high school reunions. (BTW, the IL HomeTownLocater website gives this description of the town: Youngstown is a community or populated place (Class Code U6) located in Warren County at latitude 40.661 and longitude -90.617.)

At some point I think she had a bathroom put in just under the stairs where a closet had been. That’s what I always see in my mind when I read “water closet.” I think I might have used it once. But if so, I don’t think I would have had the courage to shut the door all the way. The only danger in my bathroom is the cat’s water dish.

Aunt Ivy once traveled to Arizona and gave me a turquoise necklace when she returned. I’ve gone to many more interesting places and haven’t given nieces of nephews anything. But I have played with all my great nieces and nephews, at least once. Except the third one just recently born.

I’d give myself more credit for this if it wasn’t true that adults spend a lot more time directly interacting with children than they used to. Mom used to talk about an uncle of hers who obviously loved having kids around but could only express it by saying “Well, well, well” when he saw them and hiding bananas in the house for them to find.

All-in-all I think I compare favorably to my own great-aunts. I have the better name by far. I’m known as Auntie Winkle. Cool, huh?

I’m sure my sister will comment on all the wonderful things about Aunt Ivy that I didn’t learn about until later. Like how she always attended the Youngstown Reunion for a town that shut down. And about her nemisis—”that Jessie Woods.” And how she planted by the moon.

Jul 31

Scars

Posted on Saturday, July 31, 2010 in family, Me

I love asking people about their scars—their physical scars. I find it a good way to discover insights into their personalities and get a sense of their childhoods.

My scar stories

Scar and scab on kneeLike most kids I have one on my knee. It’s not from a single incident, but from repeatedly falling on a section of sidewalk uprooted by an old maple. I loved that section of sidewalk when I was a child. If you hooked your foot in it just right, fell, and then caught yourself before he were horizontal, it felt like flying. I loved that feeling. I just wasn’t very good at making the necessary calculations for success. Mostly I just took the risk and fell. I like this scar because it implies that I’m willing to take risks. And it’s also a reminder that the scars of even painful failures fade away.

As a teenager I leaped onto the top of a short wooden post. I felt like an owl landing on a branch, so I did it again and ended up with large bruises on my thighs. The incident was worthy of a scar, but I didn’t acquire one.

I have a scar on my arm that is also self-inflicted. I fought with my friend, Christine, in sewing class in 6th grade. She grabbed my scissors and I grabbed them back. She dug her nails into my arm to make me let go of my grasp. She won that fight. To get back at her, I kept picking the scab off my laceration and pointing out to her how she hurt me. I’m sure she no longer remembers the incident. I, however, have a scar. This scar reminds me that when trying to hurt others, sometimes you just hurt yourself.

I have one scar only my mother can see. When I was a toddler I fell out of the truck onto the sidewalk. I screamed and bled and probably threw a tantrum. Mom had to call her father to come help her with me. She didn’t take me to the doctor and felt tremendous guilt over that. So when she looks at my forehead she sees a scar. I remember being able to see it at one time, but I haven’t been able to locate it for years now. All that’s left is a feeling that I should always have bangs.

Scars of others

HabMoo has a scar to prove that he, too, was willing to take risks or that he was once dumb as a rock. As a child playing with a bow and arrows, he and a friend painted a target on a cardboard box. Then he crawled inside while his friend took aim. Hopefully he learned the importance of taking cover behind something stronger than the projectile coming your way. Evidence, however, shows he could use a second lesson.

A former partner had a scar where a German Shepherd tried to eat her head. It was a good metaphor about the parenting she experienced.

My mother has pencil lead in the middle of her palm given to her by a boy in school. I was also attacked with a pencil, but I dug all the graphite out. Consequently I can’t remember the name of my attacker. But I think it was a boy in my math class.

She also put her finger under the foot of a sewing machine and sent the needle through her finger. But somehow she escaped without a scar and only the memory of scaring her own mother.

Scars are part of our personal stories and prove that we can survive hurts. But I’m not ready to have jewelry made to commemorate it.

Do you have any good scars and stories to share?