Lifetime Learning

I have learned that if you use large black garbage sacks both for garbage and for packing clothes to donate to charity, you will eventually deliver a huge sack of garbage to Goodwill. Then you have to spend time researching the value of the garbage to determine how big a charitable donation you can claim on Schedule A of your income tax filing. I have learned that strong beliefs are convictions. And convictions lead to jail time. So avoid strong beliefs. For example I believe that drivers should not speed but I do it myself, so my belief is not too strong. I believe people should not lose their temper but I grant an exception when I lose mine. I oppose mansplaining but apparently not enough to stop doing it. I believe everyone should read my Blog postings but then again, I cannot make it through proofreading without gagging at least once. I just cut 100 words from this one. You’re welcome.

Pushing Buttons

Issa Rae says, “I hate when people press the elevator or crosswalk button right after me. You think you press buttons better than I do?” The flip side is the annoyance when someone has not punched the button and you show restraint, assuming they have. Or they do not move their car forward enough to trigger the stoplight. Some people think pressing the button over and over will affect how quickly the light will change. If that were true, you could make a case for multiple people pressing the button. Some people probably press buttons out of compulsion or obsession like popping bubbles in the bubble wrap. The best example I have of button pushing assumptions involves a busy Seattle intersection with multiple lanes going both ways. Before a Mariners game, a policeman is on duty to make sure pedestrians and traffic keep moving efficiently and safely. I was at the back of a crowd quickly growing to about 100 people swarming the corner to cross westbound. The noise of the traffic and the buzzing of the crowd made it difficult to hear the police officer. He was apparently trying to coordinate with the automated system and was yelling, “Somebody press the button!” Only the people close to the button could do it and they were engaged in conversations. Eventually enough frustrated pedestrians got someone’s attention to push the button. That was a perfect example of a mob either assuming the policeman was over-riding the system or assuming that someone else surely must have already hit the button. So if in doubt, I say just press the button even if Issa Ray is going to make fun of you.

Strawberries and Condiments

My wife Mollie makes sure to stock the kitchen with my favorite foods. She will bring me half a dozen big oatmeal raisin cookies and a couple containers of ice cream in a single trip to the grocery store. I do not worry about anyone else eating the cookies because everyone thinks they are healthy and taste like sawdust. I like any ice cream or frozen yogurt but Mollie buys the coffee flavor because no one else will touch it. I have no incentive to pace myself in consuming these treats because she automatically restocks whatever we run low on. So my lack of restraint is appalling. I am embarrassed that she does all the shopping but we both agree that my binge buying is even more out of control. I have always assumed that she takes such good care of me because she loves me so much. But others find that hard to believe. These last five years of reading a vast assortment of Blog postings has taught me to examine things from different angles. I have learned about surprise twists and dark turns. I have become more suspicious. The other day I was shocked about gaining two and a half pounds in a single day. What did I think was going to happen if I gorged on cookies and ice cream all the time? Liz says instead of telling her husband when she is annoyed at him, she puts strawberries in his salad. And Boyd says when he is mad at his wife, he opens a bottle of some condiment when one is already open. So I am starting to consider the possibility of a darkly delicious twist where Mollie is trying to make me fat.

Testing Testing Testing

My daughter-in-law Asia and I are very competitive with each other. She has been tested for Covid-19 four times this month. She has had no suspicious contacts and is remarkably healthy, maintaining her strenuous daily workouts. She tested negative all four times. I have never been tested for Covid but I have already had the Pfizer Booster. She claims she will not get the the Booster shot because she is not afraid of the Coronavirus. She will undoubtedly change her mind when eligible because she does seem afraid of it and/or she is addicted to free stuff. I also love to be tested. I have my patience tested every day. I fish for compliments every time my blood pressure is tested. I enjoyed getting the Booster ahead of everyone I know. I was texting about it while sitting in the holding pen to make sure my claim was time stamped. A volunteer asked if I needed a complimentary bottle of water. I said yes but then was embarrassed as she approached because she might see the half dozen full water bottles littered inside my car. I felt better when the lady in the car behind me began grabbing waters and bars as if she had nine starving children in her SUV. Amazing how anxious we are to hoard free stuff. As a kid, I hated getting shots and tried to avoid them at all costs. But now I am a professional vaccine competitor. I cannot believe they want me to wait a couple weeks before getting my regular flu shot. I may have to sneak one early under my pseudonym Hugo Afterme.

Fourth Grade Election

Fourth Grade is the first time students are allowed to run for Student Council at my granddaughter Zofia’s elementary school. Her class elected one boy and one girl. As near as I can tell, almost every student ran for the office. Since they all vote for themselves, the boys end up electing the girl representative and the girls determine which boy goes to Student Council. This is likely an unintended consequence of the overarching plan to have both genders equally represented. The election is a clever exercise where candidates write a two paragraph speech and deliver it in front of the class. They are doing schoolwork without realizing it. My daughter-in-law told me to stay out of the process even though I fed Zofia’s father several celebrated lines in his successful student elections. Some of my quips were censored in the approval process but I like to take too much credit for the opener in his speech for Student Body President: “I want to represent the best high school in the state of Kansas [pause for cheers], but since I cannot do that, I want to represent you!” Zofia wrote an excellent speech on her own although generally parents were involved for good and bad reasons. One girl was promising a Fidget Spinner to everyone who voted for her until her parents scrubbed that from her speech. Apparently the seeds of election corruption spring up organically. The election results were cleverly revealed right before Friday dismissal. Zofia shed tears. She lost and did not even get a Fidget Spinner. It might have been worse if one of her closest friends won. Apparently the system worked because if Zofia had not voted for herself, she said she would have voted for Stella, the ultimate winner.

By The Numbers

I always wanted to be taller. I have been punished for being frivolous because I am actually shrinking. Oddly, I never sought to weigh more or have a bigger waist. I would not be a better basketball player even if I were taller. Was I affected by expressions like Tall, Dark and, Handsome? Cowboy boots make me look taller. I tanned myself to a darker color until skin cancer excisions made my face less handsome. I should be going for Healthy, Happy, and Kind but I am too vain for that. Plus Kind ruins the alliteration Handsome would provide. And what about Smart, Humorous, and Rich? Where do those fit in? I should have straightened out my priorities when I was young enough to mold myself into the me I wanted. I still have not lowered my now exaggerated height on my driver’s license and live in fear of being caught in that lie at my next traffic stop. But I also leave my weight higher. Why do I not care about changing the record to the more flattering current weight? Wait. Who cares? I just nodded off while typing. I will get some caffeine while you break into small groups to analyze our obsessions with measurements. Miles per gallon for the car. Square feet of the house. Scores like IQ, SAT, and GPA. Sports are competitive, so we have golf handicaps, batting averages, and race times. Even our days are numbered with life expectancies, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. This is going to sound weird but I even obsessively check how many visitors like and follow my Blog! Funny how we resent being treated like a number when we define ourselves by numbers.

Tags

In over five years of Blogging, I have never tried to add a Tag until today. I am not sure how people found me before but I expect that readership will explode now that I have found this new tool. It took me four years to get a photo gravatar and five years to try paragraphs. Why does it take me so long to do things in my own best interest? Five answers: (1) Laziness; (2) Contrariness; (3) Stupidity; (4) Old Age; and (5) I forgot the last reason because I did not write it down or I wrote it down and put it in the freezer. At age 74, you would think I would not be dragging my feet since time is a scarce commodity. I do not have the luxury of a ten year plan. This post is short because I spent a great deal of time locating the “tag” button. And if no tag appears, I failed to execute (see item 3 above).

Death of a Wallet

My brother Kevin had a ritual for assigning blame. When tensions were high over some family disaster, he would direct the arguments into an apportionment of blame game. I recently lost my wallet by throwing it in the trash. So I admit to 1% of the blame for losing it. I assign equal 33% shares of blame to my wife, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter who were distracting me. The argument and negotiation over percentages of blame focuses everyone on sharing blame and can diffuse tension with laughter. Or it can escalate the argument into rage. So far I have increased my offer of blame acceptance to 10%. Still I have been inconsolable over the loss of my driver’s license, my credit cards, my Medicare and supplemental insurance cards, my Senior Parks pass, and my card that says: “I am a very important Catholic; In case of an accident, please notify a Bishop.” But today, I had an epiphany. I did not lose my ability to drive a car. So why am I pouting? I did not lose my credit. Other people have real problems. I did not lose my health insurance. I did not lose my right to visit National Parks. I do not need the Last Rites just because my wallet was buried before me. I did lose $200 in cash but I can write that off as a Blogging business expense. Wait, I think it was $300.

Lost Chicken

My wife and I were driving on a Sunday date night when daughter-in-law Asia called about a neighbor lady who asked if we had seen her chicken. We were taken aback by the oddity of the question and relieved the call was not about festering family problem. In 23 years, we have seen deer, bobcats, coyotes, skunks, raccoons, rabbits, quail, moles, hummingbirds, eagles, geckos, mice, and bats in our neighborhood. But we have never seen a chicken running loose or in a coop. Asia and the lady were trying to communicate in English, not the first language for either woman. The neighbor kept making three points over and over: (1) the chicken was the only thing keeping her husband alive; (2) she had seen the chicken on our property; and (3) she wanted to look in our backyard. Asia granted permission, notified us, but did not warn her husband Matt and their daughter who were startled when the neighbor interrupted their Badminton game. Matt had the same conversation with the woman. I do not know if she thinks we stole her chicken and is appealing to us to return it to her ailing husband. Or maybe she has a chicken-savant administering lifesaving medical treatment which is helping her husband. But I do know the chicken is not going to survive in the wild with predators and dogs running around. Then again, I do not know if our neighbor even has a husband or a chicken. But I am initiating no contact unless I actually spot a chicken.

The Village

The Red Tricycle website recently reported on studies identifying benefits of sending children to visit their grandparents. I consolidated the findings into five general categories.

(1) Grandparents provide unconditional love which is apparently good, although my granddaughter plays the game I remember her uncle loving when she asks whether I would still love her if she killed so and so. Luckily I do not answer hypothetical questions.

(2) Grandparents who babysit allegedly have a “37% lower mortality risk” than those who have no caring responsibilities. But do studies control for the variable of health condition? Maybe grandparents who die first are ones too sick to take care of grandchildren. Plus I will need an Accounting Professor explain what exactly a “37% lower mortality risk” means. If my friend Goktug has a 100% chance of dying, does that mean I only have a 63% chance of death?

(3) Grandparents want to show grandchildren the world. They showcase culture by exposing children to museums, art shows, musical theater, and even skip-gen trips. Or in my case, the culture is digging for worms, watching scary movies like The Fly and The Quiet Place, and going on Lazy Man Zoo and Aquarium Outings to nearby pet stores and fish markets.

(4) Everyone can be part of a “village” team. Grandparents can be sounding boards. Their role allows them to be less judgmental and offer empathy. Theoretically this produces happier and more secure children with less emotional and behavioral problems. But I can prove exceptions do exist.

(5) Children can learn about the past as grandparents share pictures and stories. According to scientists, understanding what life was like in the past can help children see the possibilities for change in their future. My sharing helps my grandchildren get plenty of sleep.