“Coffee Break’s Over”

I don’t remember where I heard this joke, but to this very day it cracks me up. In fact, I can’t even tell it to people without laughing my head off. (FYI, this is exactly why I’m not a world-famous comedian; I can’t stop laughing when I tell jokes.) So here it is, and please know that I am laughing right along with you.

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A man hadn’t been a very good person in life, and when he died, he went straight to Hell. The Devil met him there, and told him that, considering all of the horrible people in Hell who had commited heinous crimes in life, the man wasn’t all that bad.

The devil said, “since you weren’t too terrible in life, I’m going to let you choose which part of Hell you will dwell in for all eternity.” The man, who had expected much worse, was of course glad to hear this.

The Devil said, “now I am going to show you three places in Hell. You can take a look at them all, and decide in which one you will spend all eternity.”

The man said that was fair enough, and he followed the Devil into the first place. In it, there were men and women up to their necks in poop. They were struggling to stay afloat, but, as the man watched, several went under and came up gagging and coughing. He told the Devil that that was pretty awful, and the Devil agreed.

He took the man to the second place. In it, people were sitting in poop and feeding it to each other. He shuddered as he watched and he told the Devil that this was just terrible.

So the Devil showed him the final place. To his great surprise, the man saw groups of people sitting in nice chairs and having coffee. The poop was only up to their ankles. He thought, ‘how bad could that be? I could put up with poop on my feet and drink coffee for all eternity.’

So he told the Devil that this would suit him well. The Devil shook his hand, and ushered him into the room and then closed the door. The man sat between two nice-looking ladies, and they all chatted while enjoying their coffee.

Suddenly, a demon walked through the door, snapped his whip and shouted, “Ok folks; coffee break’s over. Everyone back on their heads!”

(Yes, I am laughing right now!)

Awareness Is What We Chiefly Need…

Do you remember the poem by Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and the Carpenter?” One of its verses reads:

‘A loaf of bread,’ the Walrus said,

Is what we chiefly need:

Pepper and vinegar besides

Are very good indeed —

Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,

We can begin to feed.’

 

In our current times, I believe that awareness is what we chiefly need. Given that so many people on devices have walked into fountains or walked across streets without looking for cars or have fallen down manholes because they weren’t paying attention to where they were going, I think we definitely need to be aware.

 

Example: a dear friend of mine and I recently had brunch at a wonderful restaurant. Seating is cozy, and we landed a table for two that was right near the door. This meant that each and every person who walked in and did not close the door (being that it was a regular door that does not automatically close on its own), caused a chilling breath of artic air to blow right in line with our table.

 

It was quite a sight to see—people old enough to know better would come in, along with the blast of icy air, and the door would slowly close, leaving a hefty space for the wind to come in. This meant that a good third of my friend’s and my brunch were interrupted by constantly saying “could you please pull the door shut?” The manager stopped by and said that this is a constant problem. So both of us offered to make a sign for the door so that people would see it and close the door.

 

He agreed, and I wrote one that said: “Please close the door when you come in. This door does NOT close on its own. Thank you.” But evidently the owner thought this was a bit bossy (and possibly politically incorrect), so they put up another sign that read “Please close the door.” It was posted up so high up on the door that I think only giraffes could read it. So, good luck with that.

 

This is just a tiny sample of the lack of awareness these days. I really don’t think that people do this on purpose; they are just not tuned in to who and what is around them. Also, I am not blaming technology for this either. I think it is simply a sign of the times.

 

As my dad used to say to me constantly when I was growing up: “be aware!”

“Put That Thing Back Where It Came From, Or So Help Me!”

If any of you are fans of Monsters Inc. (voice overs for the two main characters, Sully (John Goodman) and Mike (Billy Crystal), you will remember the “play” that they came up with, called “Put That Thing Back Where It Came From, Or So Help Me!”

Folks, I am living that same play 24/7. I am sure that I am either anal retentive or OCD, but it drives me nuts when I can’t find something that I know I put in a certain place. Ever see that commercial with the cute little toddler in his plastic car, dropping trails of cereal in his wake? Well, that’s pretty much what the Crankee Yankee does. And there is always a reason why, for example, the “office scissors” are now downstairs in his “engineering area.” To which I answer: “and I’m supposed to know that…how?”

I have found items I thought were lost showing up in places where they have no business being. Example: the little dustpan and brush we use to sweep up little messes is gone. It used to live on a hook on the stairwell going down to the basement. I gave up trying to find it, and just bought two more sets.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been many times (ok: many, MANY times) when I’ve put something down somewhere and just can’t find it. It makes me both anxious (as in am I getting soft in the head?) and angry (because I know that the missing something is probably his fault), so I vent (loudly enough for the Crankee Yankee to hear) saying things such as “Well! It seems as though the <insert lost item here> has sprouted wings and has flown off!”

I am very fond of Sharpie pens, fine-point black. Over the 17 years that we have been married, I have lost dozens of my pens to the Crankee Yankee. Evidently he turns into a crow at night and picks up my favorite pens and puts them in his nest in the top of a tall pine, cackling all the way…

I just don’t get it. If you pick something up, put it back where you found it. Or so help me…

Being the Authentic You

I plan on going to my 50th class reunion this coming June. It’s hard to believe that it has been so long since we graduated in 1969. I have every one of my yearbooks from high school, and enjoy looking through them from time to time. We all looked so young and full of hope.

Now that we all are in our sixties, most with children and grandchildren, it will be interesting to see everyone. I always wonder if anyone is getting botox or skin treatments or crash diets to look more like the teenagers we once were, or if most are just comfortable in their own skin as it now is?

I have a practice that I do each time I look in my mirror. I always smile at my reflection and say, “hello, gorgeous!” It puts a positive spin on the day. (Try it. you’ll be surprised at how much better you will come to feel about yourself.) I am no longer young, and I have the wrinkles and silver streaks in my hair to prove it. I certainly weigh more than I used to, and there’s no denying that I don’t look as I did in high school. But that’s just age and time. The “hello, gorgeous” is for me to keep remembering that I am still me. Despite what age and time does, I still feel pretty.

But really; so what? How creepy would it be at this time to look just as we did in high school? It’s not like we are all famous celebrities who have the time and the cash to get complete makeovers by the best plastic surgeons.

FYI, here’s my own take on that: you get a face lift, and your neck looks terrible. You get your neck done, and your boobs look like hell. You get them done, and then it’s time for a tummy tuck and a butt lift. That done, what about varicose veins, knobby knees and bunions? There’s just no end to it.

Gilda Radnor (famously of the original Saturday Night Live cast) said it best when asked if she would rather be beautiful or funny. She replied, “funny, definitely. Beautiful is way too hard!” I couldn’t agree more. I plan on going to that reunion as my authentic, non-botoxed self. Anyone from my class is free to laugh their heads off at how I look now.

My own take-away on this is that age, wisdom, loss, hardship and love help to make us who we are. It’s our authentic self that really matters.

 

 

 

 

Thank-yous Matter

As I was raised in the early ’50s, it was standard procedure to write thank-you notes to anyone who had given me a gift, most especially my relatives. I remember my mother explaining why this was important: “someone took the time, effort and money to give you this gift. The very least you can do is to thank them for it.”

It became a habit for me to write thank-you notes for all my Christmas and birthday gifts. I would try to make the notes personal and meaningful, not just “thanks for the gift.” It made me happy to think that the givers would be pleased that I liked the gifts that they gave me.

Of course these days it’s so much easier to just email or text someone a thank-you. But I don’t think it matters how you send a thank-you, as long as you send one. Especially when friends or relatives from far away send a gift, they would like to know if 1) it was received, and 2) was it appreciated.

When I was married to my first husband, I did all the gift buying for his family as well as my own, and I handled all the shipping. When we lived in Texas, it got pretty expensive to ship gifts to New York where his family lived. I didn’t mind the shopping, wrapping and shipping so much, but it irked me that I never got a thank-you for anything EVER.

This all harks back to treating others as we would like to be treated. It’s just plain rude not to acknowledge a gift. Thank-yous DO matter.

 

 

Pocket Change

Yesterday as I stood in line at the grocery store, everyone seemed to be in a post-Thanksgiving hurry. I only had a few things, so I was in the “10 items or less” line. Several people were in it as well and we jostled around each other as best we could.

There were two men in front of me; the first man was elderly and was paying for his purchase in dimes, nickels and pennies. His hands were trembling, and the cashier was very kind to him and patiently helped him count out his coins. I could hear the woman behind me sighing impatiently.

The fellow behind the elderly man looked to be about my age, and he was watching the man shakily counting his last bit of change. He asked the older man if he needed more money. The man smiled at him and said he was fine. They chatted for a while, and both smiled. I was too choked up to tell the man who offered to pay for the older gentleman’s order that he was my hero in that moment.

The whole encounter was like a beautiful grace note at the end of a symphony. Yesterday was Black Friday, and I can only imagine the chaos of the day. Just seeing someone actively caring about another person was a sweet reminder of our humanity. Who knows what circumstances that elderly man was in. But the man who offered to help him treated him with respect and kindness and there was an instant warmth between them as they talked.

The younger man gave the elderly man a sweet gift of kindness and comfort. A little thing to be sure, sort of like pocket change. Sometimes a little thing can mean much.

 

By the Light of the Full Moon

Last evening as we were driving home from a wonderful Thanksgiving with the Crankee Yankee’s daughter and her husband and our two granddaughters, the moon was full. It was much larger than usual, and hung like a magnificent silvery coin in the sky.

As we drove home, the sky darkened from blue to blue-black; a spectacular backdrop for this amazing moon. We could see and admire it all the way home. There is something magical about a full moon, and say what you will, it has a pull and an effect on us.

I remember when I was in summer stock at the Barnstormers Theater in Tamworth, NH. We had just finished our dress rehersal for “Our Town,” and we cast members walked back to our rooms at the Tamworth Inn. There was a beautiful full moon that warm summer night, and two of the older ladies paused to look up at it.

One of them sighed and said to her friend, “you know, it’s just not the same since the moon landing, is it?”

We giggled about that at the time, but now I realize that she was right. Landing on the moon, as exciting and as noteworthy as it was, felt as if we had besmirched the moon somehow with our presence. Somehow it took away some of the mystery of the moon.

For me, the full moon has always been a hopeful thing; remote, yet kindly showing her full face to us every now and then. I like to think that she has an affection for our Earth, whether she is in full, three quarters, half or a thin glowing crescent slice. Our nearest neighbor, cold and remote though she may be, she kindly lights the sky for us so that we may see our way home.

 

Thanksgivings Past and Present

My family was small. I was an only child, and our celebrations and holidays were spent with my parents and grandparents. As our houses were only about ten miles apart, travel was easy, even during snow storms. Sometimes my favorite uncle (whom I always called “Unkie”) would travel down from Maine to be with us. Having him there made the holidays extra fun. He loved to tell jokes and stories, and I remember many Thanksgivings when we would be roaring with laughter during dessert.

I used to envy classmates of mine who had brothers and sisters and lots of relatives. But I cherished our holiday traditions, small as they were. My grandmother (whom we all called “Ba”) was in her glory making the Thanksgiving feast. My mom would always handle some of the “sides” such as stuffed celery, cranberry sauce, and her famous light and fluffy homemade Parker House Rolls.

The turkey was always huge, filled with Ba’s delicious stuffing. There were homemade pickles, caramelized onions, mashed potatoes with Ba’s wonderful rich gravy, buttery squash, and always a fabulous dessert.

Afterwards, the adults would have another cup of coffee and smoke cigarettes at the table. As I hated the smell of them, I would usually finish my dessert in the parlor, and listen to their talk until I got drowsy.

Although we weren’t a very religious family, we always said grace at the table. But just having that tradition meant something to us all. I loved to hear my grandparents talk, especially about “the old days.” Listening to them was like having an endless story spoken aloud.

My grandparents raised my dad and his sister during the Depression. Often I would get Ba to talk about how she made food “stretch” during those lean times. They grew vegetables and fruit, and they had chickens for meat and eggs and a goat for milk and good company. I don’t remember his name, but Ba used to put a cigarette in her mouth, and the goat would put his front hooves on her shoulders, and nip the cigarette gently out of her mouth.

When you think about it, how lovely it is to spend a day with family and friends, enjoying each other’s company over a good meal. It has become a sweet habit in our family to have each person at the table say what they are grateful for. It’s especially fun to hear our granddaughters chime in about what they are grateful for. Last year it was “God” from Ava and “turkey” from Juliette.

It’s all about what we are thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

 

The Virus of Bad English

If you once were an English major like me, you are probably as picky as I am about indifferent, sloppy and just plain bad English; spelling especially.

I blame it on technology for one thing; it’s much easier to text “ware u at?” then to actually spell it out. What surprises me though is the news *chyron that you always see running at the bottom of the TV screen. There are misspellings that you would think that someone would have picked up on, but that’s probably some robot that produces it anyway. You’d think someone would teach it to spell correctly.

I often see blatant errors during programs as well. The other morning, there was a group talking about the government, and, sure enough there it was, right on TV, spelled “goverment.” Folks, it’s “government.”

The same thing happens in speech as well. We as a nation are getting pretty lazy about our speech. Again, I blame texting. Don’t get me wrong, I actually started texting myself and have to admit it’s kind of fun. However, I am still saddened (and provoked) that it doesn’t seem to matter any more that there is correct spelling and usage, never mind correct speech.

Then there are the sayings many of us grew up with that have somehow gotten screwed up over time. Here are some real beauts I found on ProofreadingServicesUS:

“You’ve got another thing coming.” This is a phrase that people often say in anger, as in “Oh, yeah? Well, then, you’ve got another thing coming!” It sounds vaguely threatening, but if you really think about the phrase, it doesn’t make much sense. What people should actually be saying is, “you’ve got another think coming,” but that makes even less sense unless you use the saying in its entirety: “If that’s what you think, then you’ve got another think coming.”

“Statue of limitations.” This one is so well known that an episode of Seinfeld even dealt with it. The correct saying is statute of limitations, a legal term defining how long someone has until they can no longer be tried for a particular crime or violation. For example, the statute of limitations on battery in Missouri may be five years. If the state doesn’t bring charges within that time frame, they lose the legal ability to do so.

“With all intensive purposes.” While, yes, it is technically possible to have purposes that are intensive (doctors and police detectives probably have these all the time), the correct phrase is “with all intents and purposes.”

“Card shark.” While someone who is amazingly good at cards may seem like a vicious shark if you are playing against them and losing all of your hard-earned money, card shark is not the correct term. For the right phrase, you need to think about synonyms for “good” and “smart.” People who show those qualities when playing cards prove themselves to be sharp – therefore, they are card sharps.

“Mute point.” What is a mute point anyway? A point that is silent? The phrase people are looking for is moot point. This is a tricky one because the correct word – “moot” – doesn’t really have any meaning beyond the one given to it in this phrase, essentially “an argument that is irrelevant.”

“I could care less.” If you could care less, then you clearly still care a fair amount. Perhaps your comment would have hurt me more if you’d phrased it correctly and said, “I couldn’t care less.” Ouch.

“Take it for granite.” Why are you taking it for granite? Does it look like granite? Does it feel like granite? Maybe you should test it out instead of just taking it for granite… or maybe what you meant was that you were taking it for granted. One involves not showing enough appreciation for something, while the other is a rock. Slight difference.

“Extract revenge.” This is an interesting mistake because it immediately begs the question “from where?” What exactly holds revenge? Of course, the person really wants to “exact revenge,” by inflicting or imposing it on those who wronged him or her.

“Nip it in the butt.” A dog might get away with this, but unfortunately a person doing this would probably be thought crazy, which is why we “nip it in the bud” instead. Huh? Think “bud” as in flowers and plants. To nip something in the bud means to stop a small problem before it can become a larger one.

“Coming down the pipe.” The original saying, “coming down the pike,” referred to something approaching from the turnpike. However, most people today don’t have a whole lot of familiarity with that shortening of the word, and “pipe” conjures images of new data streaming through digital channels. “Coming down the pipe” isn’t correct, but this is one you might just get away with.

“One in the same.” Where is one? In the same. Wait, what? Exactly – it doesn’t make any sense. And why? Because what you mean to say is “one and the same,” which is a way to say that something is exactly like something else.

“Old-timer’s disease.” Technically this one makes a lot of sense, because it’s almost always older people who suffer from this malady, but when people say this, it is usually because they misunderstood when someone said Alzheimer’s disease.

*From Wikipedia: “Chyron may refer to: Lower third, television graphics that occupy the lower area of the screen or any predominantly text-based video graphic as used mainly by television news broadcasts. ChyronCorporation, a company that develops and manufactures on-screen graphics for the broadcast industry.”