Friday, May 29, 2020

T is for Turnip Exchange

Have you heard about the Stalk Market? What about Daisy Mae- the snot-nosed pig that sells turnips.
Daisy's grandmother grows the turnips and they make a lot of Bells ($) on their crop.

My niece, Mary, lives on her own island of St. Thomas. She's spent a great deal of time creating her own relaxing oasis. The problem is that it takes a bunch of Bells to live that super sweet life. Fortunately, Mary has everything figured out.

Buying Daisy Mae's turnips doesn't always bring the big bells at her local Nook's Cranny. But then she found out about the Turnip Exchange. The real money is made when Mary travels to other islands and sells those turnips for more money. Whereas, she may make a mere 75 Bells selling turnips on her own island she can turn big Bells on another island where they sell for up to 670. Of course, it costs a few Bells or Nook mile tickets.

That's life on Animal Crossing. If you found yourself confused as you read this post you'll know how I felt when I listened to Mary describe the Turnip Exchange to the rest of the group.

Life Lesson: Buy low, sell high.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

S is for Sailing

Sailing class is a great example of how book learning doesn't always transfer well to real-life experience.

I took a sailing class during my junior year of college. The classroom stuff was pretty easy, although a few of the knots posed a challenge at first. Other than that, I had no problems identifying the parts of the boat we would be sailing. I understood it was never referred to as rope- it was a line. Finding oneself "in the irons" is not a good thing and if your sails are luffing it's time to trim those things.

One day we stepped out of the classroom do take a look at the 540s we'd be sailing. It was our chance to rig the sails, place the centerboard, and see what things looked like in 4-D. My partner and I did a pretty good job getting everything in place- so good, that our instructor thought we should step in the boat at the dock to show everyone how we would position ourselves.

After we climbed in we were for quite a shock as he untied the lines, gave a quick kick to the side of the boat, and pushed us off into the St. Mary's River with nothing more than a wave and a "Have fun ladies!"

Yes, that's when I found out sailing in a boat is much different than reading about sailing in a classroom.

We survived the experience and even passed the class with a few bumps along the river. I learned a little about sailing but more importantly, I learned I like floating around in a canoe much better.

Life Lesson: Learning is a mixture of lessons and experiences.

Monday, May 25, 2020

R is for Rose Grower

I had a collection of jobs in my youth and a few had something to do with flowers. As a 14-year-old, I spent weekends sitting behind a row of white plastic buckets full of a variety of flower arrangements. In some ways it was a pretty easy job that involved a good deal of sitting outside. The difficulties arose when the weather didn't cooperate.  Sitting outside all day is one thing but sitting outside in the rain all day with nothing more than a poncho makes for a crappy day at work.

Then there was the summer that I worked for a local rose grower. That position involved working for a family-owned company that grew red roses for florists in the Baltimore area. It wasn't my favorite summer job. First of all, I had to be at work at 7:00 pm- an extremely early hour for a college student. Secondly, I didn't work with anyone close to my age. There were three of us besides the owner that worked together. The one senior member had been there long enough to remember the owner when he was just a boy tagging along with his dad. The second lady was about 30- ancient as far as I was concerned.

There was a rhythm to a day among the roses. The morning meant time in the greenhouse with a heavy shirt that covered my arms, leather gloves, and a pair of clippers to snatch the budding roses off the bush at exactly the right time. Clipping too early meant they couldn't be sold to the local wholesalers. Clipping too late meant they were trash or gifts to take home. Roses held too long weren't a big problem but clipping too early meant a loss of money.

Once the roses were cut they were sorted by size and eventually wrapped up together in groups of 25. By 3:00 pm the cut for the day was packed and ready to head off to the wholesaler.

 It wasn't until the end of the summer that I found out I was close to being fired my first week- I lost a lot of money that week. "I didn't think you'd ever figure it out," my boss said with a smile.

The next summer I found myself a job that started later in the day.

Life Lesson: The perfect job is hard to find.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Q is for Quadragenarian

So, quadragenarian isn't exactly the word for the 40th anniversary of something but I'll take it for today's anniversary.

It was forty years ago today that I donned a cap and gown to walk across the stage set up on the football field of my high school.  My memories of the day are few. The morning started with a baccalaureate mass in the school auditorium and was followed by time spent in the staging area classrooms on the lower level of the school.

My group was a bunch of other kids who, like me, had last names that started in B. At the age of seventeen, I wasn't all that nostalgic about leaving. I was more interested in the next stage of my life. First, there would be a celebration week at the beach, followed by a long summer at home, and then finally packing up and going off to college.

Forty years later, I'm not all that nostalgic about high school but I can get reminiscent of all the life that has happened since then. The places I've lived and worked, the people I've encountered along the way have certainly shaped the person I am today. For that reason, I'll take a moment today to remember the girl who walked across that stage and started on her journey through higher education, work, friendships, and all in all, a pretty darn good life.

Life Lesson: Life rolls on, even when we don't think about it.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

P is for Procrastination

Procrastinating is my superpower. I developed the power in college and have done my best to maintain my skill throughout my life.

I've always convinced myself that I needed the urgency of a deadline to get my "get up and go" going. Of course, I usually regret all the procrastination. Yesterday and today, I spent time pulling up weeds that had snaked their way through the cracks between the bricks on my patio.

I've been staring those weeds down for a few weeks now. Of course, there was always something that kept me from getting out there and pulling-- it looked like rain, or my back was tight, or wait, don't I have a few games of Words With Friends to catch up on?

By noon today the patio was cleared of weeds and swept. It looked pretty good, so good in fact that I spent about two hours sitting out back reading this afternoon.

Life Lesson: Stop procrastinating!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

O is for Oh My!

Like many others, I've used some of my quarantine time to revisit old habits- like exercising on a more regular basis.

Back in the early 90s a few of my housemates would gather several nights a week in the living room.  Someone would pop a VHS tape in the VCR and we would sweat our way through a few different exercise tapes.  There was "Eight-Minute Abs" and or other standby, "Buns of Steel."  We ended the session with a few different arm exercises on our own.

Earlier this week, my sister sent me a YouTube video called, "Ten Minute Arms."  It took me a while but I located my hand weights and set my laptop up on the bar to give my flabby arms a bit of a workout. The exercises were familiar- they were the same ones my housemates and I were doing thirty years ago. I suppose that means they're classics. The weight I was using this week was certainly a little lighter than in my youth, but hey, you've got to start somewhere, right?

The arm exercises had me thinking about Buns of Steel and the blonde-haired instructor, Greg Smithey. Fortunately, I was able to find a copy of the original VHS recording on YouTube. So tonight, I awkwardly lowered myself to the hard floor and jumped back in. It was just as tough as I remember it being- even more so now since I'm a tad older.

The other thing I remember about Smithey's exercises is how much my legs and butt felt the next day when we first started working out along with the tape. I fully expect to wake up tomorrow feeling a little sorer. Yes, it will hurt but no pain, no gain, right?

Life Lesson: Do something today that your future self will thank you for.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

N is for Nice to Know

Our English meeting was wrapping up today when Tracey posed a question to the group: "How's everybody doing with all this?"

Everyone took a moment to put away their "work face" and reflected. We shared our thoughts, our worries, and our anxieties about what's happening now and what is still to come.

A moment later our school principal and assistant principal signed onto the meeting to say hello and answer questions.  They shared staffing concerns and their own thoughts on what next fall may look like. Before we all signed off, Tracey posed the same question to them.

"We were having a little group therapy here before you signed on.  How are you both doing with all this?"

Both administrators were open and honest.  There were feelings of anxiety and motivation issues but there were also realizations.  Our principal spoke of the highs and lows of her journey through the pandemic but she ended with the idea that it's a time to reset, reflect, and reboot.

It's so easy to sign onto a video meeting and look like everything is going well. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's done that. Just knowing that I'm experiencing the same feelings of others is helpful. It reminds me that we will all get through this together.

Life Lesson- Hard times are easier when we go through them together.

Monday, May 18, 2020

M is for Motivation

Motivation can be difficult to hold onto these days.  Even within the span of one day, my motivation level can fluctuate from up and ready to change the world to up and that's all-but at least I'm up.

I've noticed myself procrastinating on my daily walks.  A few weeks ago I gladly laced up my shoes and headed out the door.  The last two days I've definitely had to talk myself into going.  It's a short speech- "I know you don't want to go, but you're going anyway."

Fortunately, by the time five minutes have passed I've got my stride and am looking forward to all I'll see and how good I'll feel.

Life Lesson: Getting started is often the hardest part.

Friday, May 15, 2020

L is for Lemons

Gladys Kuoksa, my college Sociology professor, came into class with a basket of lemons.  Each student in our small class of 15 was to choose one and carry it with us wherever we traveled over the next week.

It seemed like an easy enough task. I gave my lemon a name and carried it with me for the week. My lemon and I went to meals, classes, and all around campus together.  The next week we returned to class and were told we could get rid of our lemons after class. 

Suddenly, I was presented with the task of getting rid of something that I had built some sort of relationship with.  Obviously, there was no human relationship but I had come to expect to find the dimpled skin of the lemon when I reached into my pocket or my backpack.  Sure, it didn't look quite as good as it did the week before but we had spent a week together, and tossing it in the trash didn't seem right.

I took a stroll down by the river and tossed it into a bush hoping it would eventually break down and return to the earth.

A second later it rolled back out from under the bush. I scooped it right up and took it back to my room where it stayed.  It stayed long enough to dry out completely leaving me with a small, dry lemon that rattled seeds when handled.

Life Lesson- Relationships come in all forms- they just take time.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

K is for King Me

Checkers is one of those kids game that I played religiously a very long time but have hardly any recollection of anymore. I'm pretty sure it was my granny who taught me how to play but it's also possible that it was my great aunt.  Both women taught me a great deal from Checkers to Jacks and an array of card games.

At some point, my dad introduced me to the game of Chess, and Checkers seemed like a little kids game that I had outgrown.

As I said, I don't remember that much about the game but I do remember the way the pieces fit neatly on top of one another.  I remember the sound of the piece sliding along the gameboard. In the summer, we would play on the screened porch at my grandmother's house so it's easy to hear the crickets and the tap of the screen door shutting along with my grandmother saying, "King me!"-with a smile on her face.

Life Lesson- Memories are made up of many different layers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

J is for Jury Duty

I was a big fan of Perry Mason back in the day.  Although that day was when Perry Mason reruns aired in the afternoon along with reruns of another favorite, The Big Valley.

Thanks to Perry courtrooms offered a bit of interest to me.  I was always interested in the battle between defense and prosecution as well as the reaction of the jury members. I wondered what it might be like to be on a jury, to be one of the people who work to find the right answer. 

It took some time but I eventually found myself on a jury. Unfortunately, it wasn't a big Perry Mason kind of case- it was traffic court.

One of the things the TV shows never told us was how much sitting around those jurors did before they sat in the courtroom. On the morning I reported for jury duty I sat in a room with about 50 other prospective jurors waiting to see if my number would be called.  There were a few cases going on that day and it was unclear how many people were needed. So I sat.  And sat.  And sat some more.
Finally, just about when I thought I may get excused for the day- meaning I could take my juror's pay and head out early (maybe a matinee?)- I was called to sit on a jury.

Suddenly any old images of Perry Mason, his secretary Della, or his investigator Paul went right out the window. I was sitting on the jury of a case involving a driver and a bee in his car. I was attentive but bored as the lawyers asked questions of the jury.

I'm glad I was attentive because it may have been easy to miss the defense attorney ask the jury if anyone was allergic to bees or knew someone who was.

I raised my hand and explained that my older brother was allergic to bees.  I was dismissed a short time later- not quite in time for the matinee movie but in time to enjoy a little time to myself on a sunny afternoon.

Life Lesson- TV- it's not always realistic.

Monday, May 11, 2020

I is for Invader

Something wasn't quite right when I got home last night. After about 32 hours away from home, my two cats were weirdly uninterested in my return. They were much more interested in something under a small space heater that I had stored next to the back door.

Alice and Edgar, my two cats, are often seen staring under kitchen appliances or cabinets. Most often there's a cricket or some other bug holding their gaze. It's not surprising to find a few cricket parts on the kitchen floor in the morning. Apparently, the legs aren't as tasty as the rest of the bug.

Last night's distraction held much greater attention than anything I've seen recently so I wasn't too surprised when I saw Alice flush out a small brown mouse. Sure, I screamed a bit- just because I tend to do that with mice- but I wasn't surprised to see the small rodent darting around the dining room in search of a better hiding place.

What ensued after the initial flush-out was a scene straight out of Tom and Jerry.  Alice, the hunter, crouched, pounced, batted, and swiveled to the best of her ability to get the young mouse into her paws.  Little Mouse eventually found a spot underneath my exercise ball.  The stand-off lasted for about 40 minutes until I decided to give an assist and pick up the ball. I was ready with my plastic trapping device- but couldn't seal the deal after the little furball took an unexpected left turn and ran under the sofa.

I finally gave up around midnight, leaving Alice to work solo with Edgar fast asleep on the couch.

There was no mouse to be found this morning but there was an upturned rug in the kitchen. I can only assume Little Mouse found his way back behind the kitchen cabinet where I hope he will stay.  If not, Alice is more than happy to play cat and mouse another day.

Final score- Alice 0  Little Mouse 1

Life Lesson:  Sometimes the little guy wins the battle!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

H is for Home

I'm sure I broke a few travel rules by heading north to my home town. I even picked up my niece in DC so I'd have a partner in crime.

I'm so glad I did.

Not only did I completely surprise my mom and dad- I also took a long drive through the stunning springtime greenery on display in Harford County, Maryland. On Saturday, I drove my parents up over the Conowingo Dam and down through the small town of Port Deposit. My dad told stories of the Naval Training Center that had been in the area-- he knew a few guys that ended up there. We admired the stone of many buildings and later found out that stone from the area know as "Serpentinite' was used to build the Empire State Building in New York.

This morning, my sister, niece and I got up early and drove about an hour north to Strasburg, PA to pick up platters of brunch food that were ordered for Mother's Day brunch. The road was full of rolling hills, farms, and Amish wagons--offering up quite the scenic treat. The food was a delicious as the drive was stunning.

After brunch, a few of us headed to a local state park for a quick hike in the woods. We took our time--stopping along the way for pictures--and enjoyed the green canopy of trees that sheltered our path.

By 5:00 pm it was time to head back to Virginia. As my niece and I discussed the high points of the weekend we agreed on one thing- it all seemed very normal- a big deal in some very non-normal times.

Life Lesson-- It's true...there's no place like home.

Friday, May 8, 2020

G is for Grandma

The first in my group of college friends has become a grandmother.  Connie and I turned 40 around the same time so off we went with two other gals for a weekend of fun and celebration.  It was that weekend that she met an older guy, with 3 sons of his own.  They were a perfectly matched couple in many ways so it wasn't surprising that they married a few years later.

And now, seventeen years after the 40th birthday weekend one of those sons made my friend a grandmother.

Hanging out with the same people I did in college makes me feel young every time I see them.  It's like we haven't aged at all.  Sure we've all been there together- going through all the life things that happen but I never feel older around those girls.  No doubt, that's part of the reason we try to get together so often.

But  It sounds like maybe we are getting older.

Life Lesson-  It's true what they say- time flies.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

F is for Frances

Frances was my very first friend.  I was just a baby when we met so I don't know much about that.  The times I remember were somewhere around the age of three or four. 

Frances lived across the street. There were two huge pine trees in the front yard of her house.  Well, at least they were huge to 3-year-old me.  We loved to climb up on the lower branches and enjoy the shade provided by the aromatic branches.

If we weren't in the trees out front we were running around the rows of grapevines in the back yard.  I'm pretty sure they were Concord grapes- not that I knew that then, but what I recall of their coloring and shape makes me believe it to be true.

Frances and I would push our baby strollers up and down Hollen Ave.- resembling the very same thing our mothers had done just a few years before.

My younger sister, Jeen, was named after Frances' mother.  Mrs. Hendricks spelled her name irregularly-with two ee's- and so does my sister.  I'm not sure where the spelling came from but the legend goes that it just made it easier to remember how to spell when it was time to learn about that.

By the time I was five my family moved from the neighborhood- south on 95- far away from our Baltimore home.  We returned to the area a year later but lived a ways away from Frances.  Perhaps I saw her again if our parents visited but I don't remember too much about any of that.

But, 53 years later I still remember Frances.

Life Lesson:  First friends are always with you.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

E is for Ed

I first heard Ed's name in middle school when he was a faceless voice over the loudspeaker running for SCA president. I must have liked what I heard because I voted for him. A year later we were formally introduced.

Walking into my first day of a 9th grade Russian Language class in September of 1976 I found a seat next to the guy with the curly black hair. It was Ed.  He was a bit of a goofball. He liked to do things like steal my cool blue-handled comb from my brown sweater pocket. He was the kind of guy that would distract me long enough that our teacher, Mr. Miller, would turn around to see what was going on a second too late. Ed would be the straight-faced star student and I would be stuck with my head down and a smirk on my face.

Eventually, we hung out in the cafeteria during free mods and went to the language lab during study periods to listen to Russian language tapes. We also laughed a lot. As high school seniors, we laughed our way through an 8-day school-sponsored trip of Moscow and Leningrad.

The boyfriend/girlfriend thing never happened between us- the timing was always off. Even so, we went through a lot of drama as teenagers together. We found abandon dirt roads to share Malt Duck on a Friday night and did our share of drinking on local golf courses and in corn fields in the dark. 

During our college years we hung out in the summer and I would bring him dozens and dozens of roses from my day job so he could impress his summer dates. We spent humid mornings on high school tennis courts talking, laughing, and sort of volleying the ball back and forth.

After college Ed stayed in DC where he had gone to college and I was back home in Bel Air.  Unfortunately, by the time I made my way to live in DC Ed had already packed up and moved on to California- a place he'd dreamed of living for as long as I knew him.

So for a while, we lost touch. Ed got married and moved north from LA to Oakland and for almost 15 years we never saw each other. There were occasional letters and a few phone calls but once everything changed to email we never exchanged those addresses.

And then one day about 6 years ago I got a call. Ed was in Bethesda for work and what if we met in Georgetown for dinner? I was a little nervous sitting at the bar waiting, but as soon as I heard the voice behind me, "When did your hair get so blonde?" -I knew my old friend was there.

In the past 6 years, we've seen more of each other than we had the past 15 years. Ed came to town for the Women's March and I was happy to host him.  He showed up again the following Thanksgiving with his daughter on the way to see his parents in Bel Air. I happily hosted them both and we all did the DC touristy thing together.

Last year, we met up in Baltimore for dinner as he was home again to visit his parents. And then, back in March- right before quarantine really hit home- we had dinner to catch up on his father's Alzheimer's diagnosis. 

There's never a loss of conversation with good ol' Ed.  He continues to make me laugh as much as he did in Russian class. 

Life Lesson- Old friends are the best kind of friends to have.

Monday, May 4, 2020

D is for Dempsey

I moved to a new town the summer before 6th grade. I left a group of school friends that I had known since 1st grade and a bunch of neighborhood friends I had grown to know over 2 or 3 years.

The neighborhood I moved into was brand new, our house was among the second wave of homes built in the subdivision called "Bright Oaks." Coming late to the neighborhood meant many friendships had already been formed so introverted me had a tough time making friends.  My neighbor, Suzanne, was about the same age as me and we hung out a lot during the first few weeks after my move.  And then we didn't.  It seems her real best friend had been on a beach vacation so I was just a short diversion until her friend returned.  Suzanne tried her best to have us all be friends but the third party wasn't having it.  Eventually, we all sort of learned to hang out and even met a few others including a girl named Dempsey.

Dempsey didn't live on our street- I think she lived a few blocks away.  I don't remember much about her except her long black hair and that she was taller than me even though she was younger.  I had never considered myself short- I was always closer to the end of the line on picture day.

There's one other thing I remember about Dempsey- she threw rocks at tadpoles.

A stream ran behind my house and it was clean enough that every spring Suzanne and I would go looking for tadpoles. Sometimes we trapped them and kept them in an aquarium for a few days so we could watch them slowly change into the next phase of their life.

One day Dempsey was with us as we looked under rocks for tadpoles. In a second, everything I thought about her change- it was the second that she picked up a bunch of rocks and started throwing them at the tadpoles we had uncovered.

I have no idea what I said.  I also have no idea whatever happened to Dempsey.  We didn't hang out that much after that.

Life Lesson:  You don't have to be friends with everyone.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

C is For Cal Ripken

This story doesn't have much to do with Cal Ripken at all except that I lived this moment while sitting in the stands to watch Cal play in his 2130th consecutive baseball game, tying the record set by Lou Gehrig.

The stands were packed that night early in September of 1995. And yes, most people in the park had all eyes on the field and the great #8 in his white and orange uniform. I was looking that way too until my eyes wandered to the left of me and settled upon the most unusual sight. There was a young man- probably high school age-with a notebook and chemistry textbook open on his lap. His head was way in the book as his pen moved across the notebook page. Every once in a while he would look up to see what was happening but then he was right back to the book.

I could only imagine what may have transpired before that young guy settled into the stands. Was there a big test the next day? Was he already behind, so early in the school year? Was chemistry that taxing that he needed to spend as much time studying it as possible?

Whatever the answer was he seemed to be having his own ironman moment. He wasn't going to let a little homework get in the way of attending a big sports event- just like Cal Ripken wasn't going to let anything get in the way of missing work for fifteen years.

Life Lesson: Where there's a will, there's a way.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

B is for Bike

When I was younger my bikes were something that might, if you were really lucky, be found under the Christmas tree.  I can only imagine what my parents went through the night before- after four kids were tucked in bed.  Back then bicycles were something that often had to be assembled.  It's no wonder my parents were so tired on Christmas day.

I've had a bike ever since I can remember.  I was about six or so when I finally said goodbye to my training wheels and have been enjoying the fun of bike riding ever since.  In elementary school, there were fancy bikes with big banana seats and even larger u-shaped handlebars.  It was a great bike for zipping around the neighborhood- especially because there was plenty of space to give friends a ride if necessary.

Then came the 3-speed.  I had an old 3-speed in middle school which served me well until I got my first 10-speed.  I was happy to have that 10-speed on hot summer days when I would ride my bike to the other side of town to see friends.  Before I got my driver's license my bike was my ticket to freedom- a way to see friends in the rural area I lived in.

I took a break from my bike once I was able to drive but made sure to pack my yellow 10-speed when I set off for college.  That bike made late-night runs to the snack bar and beer runs to the package store about 3 miles away.

Nowadays, my bike is a source of relaxation.  Nothing relaxes me like a long ride along the canal path from DC to Maryland. Recently, I've had to curb my canal path rides due to the crowds and the risk of contracting a disease so it's been over a month since I've saddled up.

Blue skies were in abundance today and with temperatures in the low 70s, I couldn't resist getting on the bike.  I kept my ride to neighborhood streets to avoid the crowds.  It wasn't a long ride, but it was a relaxing one-like a long walk with an old friend.

Life Lesson: Comfort comes in all forms.