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"I Believe Laughing Is, Indeed, The BEST Medicine"

H U M O U R  C O L U M N

laugh at life

Who I Come From

Without getting into details of my family history, suffice it to say that we are, most often, as close to separated as we can be without being considered estranged. I hadn’t been with any of my immediate family for so long that I’d almost forgotten who I’d come from ... until my niece’s recent wedding. Immediately upon arrival in Saskatoon my husband and I went to pick up my mother who was wearing the most stunning suit I’d ever seen. She has always been a thin, stylish woman but the outfit she wore was seriously over the top. When I commented on how dazzling she looked she quite proudly replied, “Thank you, but if it wasn’t for my friend Mary I wouldn’t own such a beautiful outfit.” I smiled, imagining the kind person who had gifted her with such a wonderful offering but ... she wasn’t finished. “I was just so glad they didn’t bury her in it.” My eyes widened and my jaw dropped as she ended with, “and you know me—I love cheap but free is even better!” After a few minutes the details regarding her attainment of the garment became clearer and I felt great relief knowing that she hadn’t ripped the suit from someone’s dead body. Her explanation at least seemed ... acceptable. Apparently this woman’s daughter knew how much my mother liked the outfit and gave it to her — after the funeral. My mom, well into her eighties, had cared for elderly people for years. I know they appreciated her very much and who am I to say if it is or isn’t cool to accept a gift from someone who, although presently dead, appreciated her while she lived? Is it any big deal to wear a dead person’s clothing anyway? After all, many of us shop at consignment stores. Where do we really think all that used clothing comes from? I haven’t seen my sister for over two years. Truth be told—we’ve hardly spoken—but as I’d showered that very morning I found myself cattily hoping that my only female sibling wouldn’t be found in the earlier, thinner state of which I’d last seen her. Then I shook my head, chastising myself for being so shallow. Fast forward to the actual wedding ceremony. My mother, husband and myself sat down a few rows from the front in the sanctuary and promptly heard a voice saying, “You’re sitting on the wrong side of the church, you know.” Because I’d just asked the usher if there was a specific “side” for the bride vs. groom I knew this to be untrue as I glanced over to the woman sitting on the end of the opposite row. I didn’t immediately recognize my sister because, when last I saw her, her hair was much shorter and she, as myself, had weighed considerably less. It was when she laughed that I realized this was, indeed, the sibling I hadn’t seen for much too long and I quickly moved to sit beside her. After long-lost hugs were given and accepted she quietly said, “Well, I have to admit I was hoping you’d chubbed up a little so I’m even more happy to see you now.” I might’ve been hurt by that if she hadn’t drolly added, “and I bet I haven’t disappointed you either.” Like two small children in a full but quiet church we rocked the bench with our attempt to keep our laughter silent as our skinny mother sat with pride near us. Poor woman. Later, we all went to my daughter’s place to hang out while awaiting the reception. My sister wasn’t happy with her untidy bangs and asked our host if she had a curling iron with which to work them into submission. A flat iron was readily found but the temperature setting was, unfortunately, ignored. Apparently hair previously sprayed and a five-hundred degree temperature are not a good combination but we laughed as we picked out sections of her burnt hair well into the evening. Often I’ve cried about things involving my family but these people, who I come from, also afford great reason to laugh!

a choice in the pause

The older I get the more I realize that I have little control over many of the moments in life that surprise me, but what I do have control over is my reaction to those moments. My response to these “special” occurrences may vary. I might, almost understandably, get fired up, feel sad or allow my anxiety to elevate. As I age, however, I’m finding that if I don’t, I definitely want to take things more in stride and ... with a perspective of humour. I recently saw a specialist who noted very limited range of motion in the area of my concern and although he commented on it he offered no solution to my plight. Then he told me, rather abruptly, that I was too young to be retired, no matter my discomfort or bodily challenges. This almost felt like a compliment until he finished with, “You should get back to work because we’re short on nurses.” I made a choice then. Instead of informing him of the list of things I feel I’m accomplishing at present (you know — to still validate my very existence on earth) I decided that a small smile, before my departure, would have to suffice. That conversation compelled me to reflect on previous comments I’ve heard, which have also made me pause for a second, before responding. Lets call this “the choice in the pause”. The following quotes have been experienced by either myself personally, or others who have kindly shared their own with me. Doctor (phoning patient a few days after his appointment) - “Did you have that prescription filled yet? I may have written you the wrong one.” (Jokingly) “If your voice suddenly sounds higher or you begin losing an abnormal amount of hair ... we’ll know.” (Silence whereafter patient reads the name of the medication he’s been taking for more than a few days) Doctor - “Seriously - please stop taking that now.” Surgeon (to patient after surgery is complete) - “There’s no easy way to say this but ... we seemed to have lost an instrument. An x-ray of your body will show us where.” Surgeon (when patient is awake during surgery) - “Oops!” Doctor (about to perform a procedure) - “This won’t hurt much.” Nurse (standing beside doctor with eyes on patient) - “Hmm ... this is actually going to hurt quite a bit but ... take a few deep breaths.” (What she really means is: breathing will lessen your chance of passing out during the horrendous pain you’re about to experience. Admittedly, this may not be a laughable moment.) Lab Technician - “I can’t see any of your veins. I’ll have to dig a bit.” Dentist (after the procedure) - “Thank goodness you can close your mouth. I thought your jaw might’ve broken just then.” Dental Hygienist - “Do you ever floss? It’s lookin’ like a blood bath in here.” Hairdresser - “This isn’t at all like the picture you showed me but ... it’s still good.” (It wasn’t) Pastor - “You might not be forgiven for that.” Sibling, child or any family member whom you thought loved you (after seeing you trip and fall) - “There’s the hole I was going to warn you about!” (Then she laughs and laughs and ... snaps a quick pic before helping you up) And from the all-time BEST “Fortune Cookie” I’ve EVER broken open - “Enjoy your own company. If you don’t, who will?” (I keep this in my wallet at all times, in case I ever feel unhappy about myself) We’ll never control everything or everyone around us but our reaction to the uncontrollable is within our power. Admittedly, there are times that laughter would be hugely inappropriate but as a wise person once told me — whenever possible, find the comedy in your life. Cheers to making a choice for humour, in at least some of our life’s toughest pauses!

nobody died

Once upon a time I thought I’d shake things up and change jobs. Up until then I’d worked only with new mothers and their babies, which I didn’t know was my true calling until after I tried my hand at ER nursing. A big change often adjusts a person’s perspective and very shortly after starting in a larger city’s ER, mine altered drastically. Nurses, as well as most health care workers, must certify for CPR every year. The nurses who work with newborns take an additional course dealing with the fine art of resuscitating babies. Nurses in ER, ICU and other similar specialty areas must take ACLS — an advanced course to gain the expertise to kickstart the more mature heart when it fails. So … armed with the knowledge of how to help babies, off I went to learn about adults! The first thing I was told? Adults are nothing like newborns. Great. The adult pump’s rhythm can virtually slip into any dance it thinks is cool, even when inadequate to do the job. To say I was overwhelmed would be an understatement. I agonized for days, learning the different rhythms and the appropriate actions to perform when seeing them, as well as memorizing the proper medications to give for each. At one point, I was trying to regurgitate all I’d learned when my brain started to cramp. My insightful instructor, with her head full of knowledge and mouth full of answers, suddenly stopped me. Recognizing my anxiety she said, “You’re way too stressed about this. If you don’t do everything exactly by the textbook, remember … you can’t get worse than dead. Anything you do might help.” She probably said more but what stuck was, “You can’t get worse than dead”. Although not exactly the same, my perspective changed that day. I learned to say “nobody died”. I could accept negative things so much more readily after that. For example, when my grandson yelled out a cuss word in the front of a full congregation at church one day … nobody died (although, from my embarrassment, I wanted to). When the only garage door at our condo refused to open and I couldn’t get my car out … nobody died. When I cut into the baking that I’d taken to a huge family gathering and found it to be raw inside … nobody died (humiliated yes, but not dead). When a stranger gave me a huge compliment about how young he thought I looked and I walked around with a spring in my step until a few days later when I found out the man was legally blind … nobody died (only my self-esteem withered). When I stupidly took a quiz on-line for “people over 50” to determine what my brain age really was and it came up with 97 … nobody died (except a little more of my self-esteem). When we moved and my husband said we didn’t need a cleaning lady anymore, miraculously … nobody died. There are other examples of when I gave this, albeit unsolicited but sage advice to others. An example: when my sister-in-law’s FIT test (yes! the poop one) rocketed out of her hand one stormy day and she couldn’t find it because the envelope was as white as the snow drift it had flown into … nobody died. Or worse yet, when her dog ate it … nobody died (the dog didn’t either). And here’s a little extra for all of us: When we barely eek out a word about any topic and immediately our phones alert us that we have a message about that very thing. Our minds may visit the validity of conspiracy theories but … nobody died. So when life happens and something goes awry, ask yourself — did I or anyone else die? Remember … you can’t get worse than dead, therefore you can still afford some optimism!

a good grandma-
when i want to be

A few weeks ago I saw a meme that read “Happy Grandma Day! Here’s a Smile For All You Crazy Grandmas”. I don’t know if this is an actual date to celebrate but since someone thought up “Old Rock Day” (yes — that’s listed as a holiday I’m sure a disgruntled geologist made up), I suppose we grandmothers can have our twenty-four hours too. I admit that there were many times I could’ve done better as a parent. It started when they were young. Yes … I was one of those mothers who let my babies cry. Of course, when they were very wee I’d let them get away with waking to eat at night, even until they were eight weeks old, but after that they learned that nighttime was for ignoring. Oops! I mean — sleeping. Oddly, there were no “sleep-training” books back then but we figured it out and, miraculously, everyone survived. Our eldest daughter was just over a year old when she woke up one morning to her mother being the only adult in the house. I was still asleep when, in a dream-like state, I heard a voice from the distant crib down the hall, saying, “Mommy”. (Parenting Rule: park them far away so you’ll only hear when they get really worked up.) As I slowly came to, I heard this same word repeated over and over in the cute little sing-song voice of my tiny daughter, thoughtfully waking me at five in the morning. “Mommy’s coming,” I groaned. But too many twelve hour shifts in a row left me dozing again, until this progression of words shot me out of bed like a bullet. In increasing volume she yelled, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Pattie!” I won’t divulge the worst of my parenting mistakes but suffice it to say it got much worse from there. Fortunately, I believe in selective forgetting and then — moving on. Being a grandmother is a great and wonderful privilege. It’s the joy that comes … after all that work. It’s the happiness that occurs … after years of agony. But mostly … it’s the time to fulfill a moral obligation to be nicer to my grandkids than I was to my own! Sympathy for my own children usually didn’t kick in until a bone was showing or blood was spurting from a place other than their circulatory system. If their fever hit high enough that I suspected a seizure might be forthcoming, well … that got my attention too. But the grandkids? One little boo boo and this grandma runs for the most colourful bandaid available. Or, more accurately, I pretend to care more quickly. I’m still not all that soft and mushy (speaking only of my mental state here) but I do sympathize a tad more with the fresher leaves on the family tree. I’ve been blessed with grandkids who are enthusiastic and who wish for me to join in playing interactive games with them. This requires effort on my part which I may or may not wish to give. Incidentally, that is the reason I had three children — so that they could entertain one another. My grandchildren did not get that memo. This leaves me no choice but to occasionally pick a favourite — the kid who wants to stuff his face with popcorn while sitting like a lump and watching a movie! I do enjoy, however, giving my grandchildren gifts. Admittedly, this is where I shine. My daughter texted me a huge thanks for the candy and toy bags I gave her children just before their four hour trek home one Christmas. Her text read … “I particularly enjoyed the kazoos you threw in. They were exceptionally entertaining during our looooong trip home.” I was pretty proud. “See?” I texted back. “I can be a good grandma — when I want to be.”

love those flintstones!

I’ve had a recent stomach flu and as I was getting to know the inside of my toilet better, I thought, “At least this is happening now, instead of at Easter. I wouldn’t want to miss out on the chocolate.” I’ve wondered sometimes why I like sweet treats so much but I think I know the answer. During our formative years, my family lived just one block away from our elementary school. My sister, brother and I would tear home at noon, to watch ‘The Flintstones’, which was on one of our two TV channels. I don’t remember what we ate for lunch, most likely due to the distraction of my favourite cartoon, but I do remember the meals that began our each and EVERY day! Our mother was extremely health-conscious. Nary a candy could be found in her pantry and when she would make a special dessert we kids weren’t offered much of it. Our choice for breakfast was between three delectable cereals — Cream of Wheat, Oatmeal or Red River (anyone remember that flax-filled gunk?). All of us preferred the oatmeal, the best of the three evils, until — we didn’t. She wouldn’t believe us, our mom, and for at least a few mornings we ingested more than our fair share of extra protein. When we finally all changed to Cream of Wheat, because Red River cereal looked like it was riddled with them too, our mother finally inspected the oats more carefully and found the ant carcasses we’d been complaining about. Yep! She fed us dead ants … for days! When she finally acknowledged it, all she said was, “You won’t die from that,” and replaced the oatmeal — even after we begged for Fruit Loops or even a Cheerio. She wasn’t satisfied with filling our bellies with the healthiest of hot cereals, however. Our mom was ahead of her time. She made special “smoothies”, long before that term became popular. I hear people rave about these nowadays. I don’t know if any of my close friends have noticed but when they’ve offered to make me one, I’ve always declined. I believe that my maternal figure’s early attempts at these is the reason why. Our mother’s idea of a smoothie was something she called ‘Tiger’s Milk.’ These break-the-fast treats were a concoction of plain yogurt, wheat germ, a little milk to attempt a fluid-like consistency, and Brewer’s yeast. (If you’ve never tasted Brewer’s yeast — I encourage you NOT to. I fail to believe that anything that grotesque can be good for anyone or anything in any way.) Then she’d threaten to throw in our cod liver oil, if we refused to swallow the tablespoon of that, as well. But oh! I almost forgot the half a banana she’d add, almost as an afterthought — you know — to sweeten it up a little. I hate bananas … and cod liver oil … and Tiger’s Milk. Mom always said she was thinking only of our welfare but I suspect she smirked at the three small heads peeking over the table top, as we held our own noses and gulped. No mother in her right mind should do that to innocent children. How could she bear watching us every morning as we choked down our sugarless cereal and the grossest ingredients ever blended in a glass? I’ll just say, after that, the eight or nine vitamins (that would help us live to be a hundred) were no big deal at all. I somehow think if each of your offspring starts out every day begging for mercy it’s indicative of a problem, at least on some level. But what could we call it? Health abuse? I suppose that’s why I treated my kids differently. During their years at home, they may not have watched many a cartoon at noon, but the Flintstones were alive and well in our house. They came in the form of a vitamin. One per day. And in any flavour they wanted. So — treat yourselves and the kids you’ve been blessed to have, with a little chocolate this Easter. And don’t forget the reason for the season! For He is Risen!

what's wrong with you

“What is wrong with you?!” I’m fairly confident that Adam and Eve first spat out this question — either at one another or a child or two. (Most likely Cain heard it first.) I, myself, have asked this question many times but, more often, have had them spewed at me. Warning: You may think this not a topic that fits well with humour but even in very difficult circumstances, it is always good to see the funny side of things. I learned that from the best! My father had a great sense of humour. As wonderful as that was, however, he could also throw a look my way that wordlessly expressed that age-old saying “I helped to bring you into this world and I can take you out”. It was quite frightening, especially because he was such a jovial man 99% of the time. A few years ago my father was, sadly, diagnosed with an aggressive terminal cancer. By the time the bone metastases was diagnosed it was too late for treatments, so keeping him comfortable became the goal and a palliative road would be travelled. The first day that the Home-care Nurse came to visit him will live in my mind forever. When the nurse arrived I happened to be there but I’d moved myself to a table, away from the two of them, so they could have their chat. I pulled out a book which I attempted to read. The nurse was a fresh, young woman who was very compassionate as she discussed what “palliative care” meant. My father listened intently to her every word. When she began addressing the medications he was on, however, my eyes dropped from the words I should’ve kept reading. I remember the conversation thus … Nurse: “Sir, you should know that since you’re a palliative patient, the government covers all your medication expenses.” Dad nodded and smiled. Nurse: “There is one thing you’re on, however, that’s not covered. That is your Calcium supplement.” Dad nodded and smiled. Nurse: “If you’d like to stay on that you will have to pay for it.” Dad nodded, smiled and then asked the nurse, “What do you think I should do?” Nurse: “Well, I think you should stay on it. You don’t want to get osteoporosis.” Sometimes I wish I wasn’t a nurse. I should have left that alone. Should have but … Me (laughing before I shot out): “Osteoporosis?! He’s got bone mets! Osteoporosis is the least of his worries!” My father’s demeanour instantly changed as he whipped his face toward me with a look that should have stopped my heart and when the nurse left I braced myself for what I knew I deserved. Instead of a lecture, however, he broke into a smile and chuckled. “I told her I’d stay on the calcium because she was trying to be helpful. I didn’t want her to feel stupid. But seriously … what’s wrong with you?” I loved that man!

choose another hobby

I have two reactions when subjected to a computer problem: #1. Fit of rage. #2. Weepy mess. I used to teach piano lessons and I believe there are, basically, three kinds of “learners”. First are the truly gifted - musicality oozes out of them and there’s almost nothing you cannot teach them. These are the ones who are “called” to their instrument and, perhaps, will even make a living using the gift God has given them. The second group - the majority - are teachable and have some level of musicality. They make themselves, their parents and others smile at their accomplishments. The third group - a rare group of people who, even when shown the same things over and over… just don’t get it. They may be able to pull off playing a song or two but… really… they need to choose another hobby. Truth be told - I’m exactly like the third group when doing anything computer-related. If someone instructs me in the exact steps to accomplish my task, I can usually manage it. But as soon as there is a sniff of a “glich” I completely panic, bang on the keys (because THAT’s going to help!) and have the urge to throw my laptop at anything or anyone in the room. Then I cry. Something like that happened recently and it involved an important document with a deadline. I, of course, asked the one person who sighs deeply, shakes his head and tells me to calm down but then, thankfully, figures out the problem for me. This time, however, my husband couldn’t get things to work so I called a friend of mine who is in the computer “biz”. After moving past the anger stage and into “meltdown” mode, I called my friend Al. Perhaps I should have ceased weeping before speaking with him but after explaining that I wanted to smash my computer, my current hero quickly assured me that he’d figure it out. I became instantly hopeful and excitedly told him I would come to his house and bring my laptop to watch him work his magic. Perhaps I’d even learn something! He agreed, with what seemed like hesitation, but I ignored that and went on my way. After a challenging time Al did fix the problem and he realized, up close, how little I know about computers. Lucky him. When we were done, however, he admitted that he’d been most worried that I would be a blubbering mess when I arrived at his place. (Apparently hysterical women aren’t appealing to him but he can withstand a computer-challenged one.) If it had been me I would’ve been more concerned about the possibility of a computer being thrown at my head, but I didn’t share that. I’m sure he’s too kind but what he should have said was, “You really need to choose another hobby”.


As the clock ticked into a brand new year, my mind focused on resolutions and, as usual, I began evaluating types of diets. Of course, I’ve been on some of these (Paleo, Keto, Whole, Vegan, South Beach, Atkins, Raw Food, Blood Type, WW, blah, blah, and blah … into infinity and beyond …). I am thrilled to report that, during another recent google search, they’ve added an assessment of a person’s belly to the equation. After studying the five types of those (gluten, stressed, hormonal, mommy and alcohol belly), I’ve had an epiphany or, some might say, a giving up of sorts. I’ve decided to go with my favourite (drum roll here) - the Hideit Belly diet. Easy explanation: Eat what you want and dress to hide it. I’ll admit, my size weighs heavily on my mind (I know — groan). But here’s the proof of that. I have a friend who lives in South Africa. She has, among other attributes, a phenomenal sense of humour, as proven by her agreement that I could write this story. A few days before Christmas, she and I were communicating via WhatsApp. I was glad that she, her children and grandchildren were celebrating together at that time. We compared our holidays, as people do, and she sent me a picture and a short video of her immaculately decorated home and table. As I looked around my own space, with it’s two feet high, sparsely decorated what’s-supposed-to-represent-a-Christmas tree, I quickly decided not to reciprocate with pictures. Instead, I informed her of our frigid temperatures and that I was spending the day baking. She wrote back, “I am not baking this year as we’re having load-shedding for four hours at a time, three times a day.” Perhaps you are from that part of the world, or just a wee bit less ignorant than I, but I immediately thought load-shedding?! Who would ever choose to diet during the Christmas season? And for twelve hours a day? Those poor grandchildren! Instead of asking her what that term meant, however, (like a normal person might at least consider) I typed back, “Wow! My grandkids would think they’re dying if we did that over here!” (Wait! It gets worse!) Then I inconsiderately rambled on, telling her about the sugar cookie baking and decorating that my daughter, her kids and I were excitedly anticipating for the next day. Imagine my chagrin when she typed back, “NO. Load-shedding means there is NO electricity for four hours at a time (three times per day). We have a generator to keep the fridge running but not the oven. We must buy our baked things this year.” Ironically, I’d thought only days before of how glad I was that, as I age, I stick my foot in my mouth much less often. That day, as I gagged on both feet before disimpacting them from my great big mouth, I wrote, “Oh no! I thought load-shedding meant dieting. Believe me — there’s a load over here that needs shedding”. I cannot imagine what the expression on her face would have been but, thankfully, she was graciously forgiving. (Only one reason why I love her.) I can’t help but think how incredibly blessed we are over here, with our power on and our lights and ovens working. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against purchasing baked goods. Even with my oven working that is often my usual way, but it’s nice to have the option. Load-shedding. I doubt we’ll be seeing any Amazon ads for a diet with that word scrolling across the screen but … who knows? There is a diet that involves Ear Stapling. (Seriously … Google it)

simply how we're wired

I used to wonder if I contributed anything but the egg at my children’s conceptions. It was clearly my lack of self-awareness, back then, because as they’ve grown I’ve seen some glaring similarities between myself and my offspring. When our son was young, my mother was very worried about how active he seemed. (Apparently no one in the history of our family had ever had “that much” energy.) Because of his lack of focus for most tasks, we did eventually become concerned. Instead of looking at ourselves, however, we took him to professionals who guessed at what was “wrong” and failed to help him anyway. Fast forward, twenty five years later, and he still can’t sit still for any length of time, which is a blessing since he’s got small children and is now the funnest dad ever! These days, it seems more important to gain a fancy diagnosis for what may often be our learned or innocently inherited behaviour. But … does everything need to be diagnosed when many things can’t or don’t need to be fixed, anyway? Don’t get me wrong. A timely investigation of something serious is imperative but I suspect that if my son went for “testing” now, he’d come out sporting a diagnosis that might only serve as an excuse, and certainly discount simple inheritance. I have come to accept that I work better under pressure. In fact, I sometimes purposely hold off accomplishing many tasks because I work more efficiently when I know I must stay focussed. Crunch time, if you will. For example, if I have a deadline looming I can begin the project days before and most likely could finish it … if I was placed in a padded room with no windows. Years ago, when we owned a cat, we acquired a laser pointer. Alley, who would be quietly cleaning herself in a corner, immediately attempted to catch the light when we (a family easily entertained) took turns moving the red beam. Not unlike our cat, I can also be easily distracted by anything whizzing inside my peripheral vision. If I don’t keep my eyes riveted to the computer when I’m writing, for example, but make the mistake of glancing somewhere else, I will lose my thought process immediately. This very moment proves it. I just stretched and peered out the window. There is a car honking at someone walking four dogs. Four! I stand up to watch the show. I wonder if the person on the end of the leashes is a professional dog walker. Since none of the canines are behaving perhaps he is, at this very moment, reevaluating his occupational choice. But wait! The dishwasher stopped. Since I don’t know this machine well I must check it out, but on my way I notice crumbs on the counter and feel compelled to wipe them. There’s cake! I grab a small (I’m writing that, anyway) slice. I sit again and peer at what I’ve typed, trying to refocus between bites of my snack. When I was younger I watched my mother (the very one concerned for her grandson’s lack of focus) with a judgmental eye as she flitted from one task to the next, often not completing one before moving onto another. My naive arrogance voiced that I’d “never” be like that. If you’re like me, you know that when a word like “never” falls from your lips you’re probably going to have to eat it, eventually. Long story short — I’ve had a much larger piece of that than the cake I just finished. One day I googled, “medical diagnoses for someone unable to focus.” A long list of possible “psychological conditions” came up. Anything from ADHD, possible addictions and anxiety issues spread across the screen. I started reading but very soon felt as if I heard Charlie Brown’s teacher voicing, “Wah wah, wah wah,” in my head. My inevitable conclusion: “Experts” may suggest some psychiatric anomaly but … so what? I’ve learned to function this way my whole life and so has my son who, for better or worse, is much like … his grandmother. Lol. It’s simply how we’re wired.

A Necessary Bane of My Existence

In reference to me complaining about my curfew, my father would grumble, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” Of course, he was talking about his fear of me coming home pregnant. These days there’s a different kind of risk. Specifically, the possibility of spending ridiculous amounts of money in the wee hours of the morning because … Amazon never sleeps. In fact, isn’t it comforting to know that social media, millions of websites and places like Amazon are wide awake when our bladders get us up at night and we can’t fall back to sleep after meeting the demand? Ah … Amazon. A site I’ve gotten to know even better after studiously doing the thing that all authors are strongly advised to do, in order to gain more sales of their books. Yes, I’m talking about advertising. These days, you can’t sling a cat without hitting an author and all of us want our books read. After all, we’ve poured our hearts and souls into these manuscripts and would like to afford to do it all again. Why? Because we clearly have a mental problem. If you need more proof, here it is … The average writer makes less than $10,000 per year. Personally, I think that amount is impressive. When my husband mathematically computed what I made last year, he found my wage to be less than four cents an hour, for the grand total of eighty three dollars and twenty cents! As sad as that seems, I felt surprised and thankful that I was still in the black. As with many “crafters”, a majority of writers do NOT do it for the money. After watching more advertising webinars than I care to admit, I’ve been studiously punting out ads onto the Amazon platform, while secretly hoping and dreaming that someday I might squeak out ten cents an hour. Three months into this, another author I’ve gotten to know messaged me with this amazing news. Her daughter threw a few tictoc videos onto that platform and she is convinced they’re helping even more with her book sales. She suggested I might try it. You’d think I’d feel elated about yet another grand opportunity to sell my wares but, instead, the immediate thought screaming inside my head was, “NOOOOO” … for so many reasons. Mostly, I felt that I’d already pushed the boundaries of my limited creativity to it’s breaking point. In hopes of hearing “I can do that for you”, I told a few people of my plight but quickly tired of their rebuttals, most of who replied, “they’re so easy a monkey could do them.” So … still knowing nothing about the tictoc platform, this monkey had a cry. A few days later, after completing the weepy stage of the grieving process, I entered into anger and vented to my daughter my many woes. One of my teenaged grandsons happened to be listening and he happily piped up. “Grandma, if you need to make tictoc reels I can show you how. They’re easy. My teacher taught me.” With my curiosity immediately peaked, I pulled a chair beside me and smiled. “Please. Sit,” said I. Nervous that he’d see his grandmother in a negative light, I then said, “I hope you don’t get too frustrated teaching this old dog the newest trick.” (I’m really not a monkey but I realize I’ve just called myself a dog.) In less than ten minutes he’d taught me how to make a simple reel on my newly-installed tictoc app. I then empty-promised him that if I ever got rich, he would be the recipient of some of that money. Before he got too excited, however, I smashed his dream when I told him the amount of money I made for my writing attempts last year, and suggested it be wise for him to continue his education. Cell phones, social media, websites and marketing. Although necessary, to at least some extent these days, will always be the bane of my existence!

Not even a fish

My husband and I recently spent the weekend with four of our grandchildren. This family of six live on an acreage full of non-humans, as well. Many are even inside the house. Anyone who knows me is aware that I am crazy for animals and love the outdoors more than life itself. NOT! Chickens are, as with most baby animals, really cute when they’re born. In a few weeks, however, they are not quite so attractive and they are a noisy bunch. The basement in this home currently houses these only-a-few-weeks-old squawkers because, as my daughter said, “They may have hatched a little early, for the weather.” There are other animals around and inside this homestead, also. They have very noisy roosters, ducks, cats and large dogs. Of course, pretty much every time the door opens, the cats run into the house, no doubt thinking chickens would be fun play things. As much as the cats want in, the two dogs want out, with their number one goal being — to run away. As nice as that may have sounded to me, we insisted they be tied up because just the evening before our arrival they’d both been to the vet for removal of quills from a pissed off porcupine. Last year those same dogs had more than one bout with skunks so our added goal was to keep them stink-free. This family lives in a work-in-progress older home which has been in-progress for the past several years. Imagining what the second story loft will look like someday is really fun. Sleeping up there, before the facelift, is a different story. “Honey! Did you hear that?” came out of my alarmed mouth more than a few times that first night. Hardly able to hear myself the next, I asked, “Is there an actual bird inside this ceiling?” That’s not a stretch because, not long ago, our eldest grandson stabbed a shrew that was running around behind the plastic that covers the ceiling. He proudly did away with it when he was testing out his newly acquired Katana sword. Just a bit of blood spatter is left, to remind us all of the kill. Speaking of swords … I went outside to check out the roosters (who crow incessantly, all day) and I glanced my fifteen and ten year old grandsons fighting with real ones. I don’t know if I’d simply given up at that point, or didn’t see the possible danger with this sort of activity. I knew, however, that I’d loosened up considerably since raising my own kids, when I yelled, “Just don’t lob off a finger!” They assured me, immediately, that swords have hand guards. I then remembered that I carry a first aide kit in the back of my car so I told them to carry on but, of course, to be careful. Yes, I realize as I write this — that made no sense — but a trip to the very distant ER wasn’t warranted, so it’s a win! Although I may not be an animal lover, if a person decides that it’s a necessary responsibility, I do believe they should be cared for well. I don’t know how many times my husband or I asked these questions: “Has so-and-so been fed?” (Of course every animal has been named.) “Do they all have water?” “Has anyone collected the eggs today?” (There’s a coop outside too!) And to two of our grandsons: “Weren’t there six chickens in the basement? You sleep down there — don’t you do a head count every now and then?” Yes … good times were had by all! The crowning moment, however, occurred mere hours before we left to return to our quiet, poop and straw-free home. One grandson went to rotate the many eggs in the incubator (housed in their dining room) and … you guessed it! A new chick had hatched! When raising our own children, I feel I did more than my share of compromising in the animal tolerance department. As wonderful as new life is, I must admit, I’m thankful that I don’t even own a fish.

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