Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Fleeting Invention Ideas



We had the greatest idea. Our imaginations ran wild. We’d have tee shirts, buttons, flags with our logo. Logo. What could we use as an identifying reminder of our idea?

The above conversation began after a birthday dinner in which the family sat in an upscale restaurant (for our area it was “upscale”.). The members turned to me and said, “Did you hear our conversations?” I replied “No, but I got the gist of it.”

Son 2 said he knew then how difficult it was for me to hear (a) between walls (b ) in a crowded place (c) around corners (d) and everywhere in which no one was facing me. So began the process of helping me enjoy family get-togethers in the future with ideas flying left and right.

After figuring out what the logo would be, Son 2 went to Google, “Just to be sure there’s not one already.” There was - - not just one but variations of the standard logo for impaired hearing. We were disappointed but happy. Disappointed we didn’t think of printing tees and buttons and signs and whatever forty years ago when my hearing problem was in its infancy; disappointed that we hadn’t learned the symbol wasn’t used more often in public; disappointed that I had lost so much enjoyment in the myriad of table conversations.

We found a company that printed anything you want on tees and buttons. I ordered several buttons with nifty statements. From the logo alone to a few words. Each button makes clear the message I need to convey when the cashier babbles incoherently (I think) “Thatistwentythirtytwo.”  Maybe she’ll read on my lapel “Speak a little louder and more clearly.”I won't have to ask for a repeat several times.

  What would you as a hearing-impaired person choose to wear?


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Making Choices

Today's market of giving the customer his/her choice in whatever is offered, especially in restaurants, is becoming too much for an old lady who grew up taking what was offered. Take for example:

I drop by a sandwich shop for a quick pick-up . I order a tuna melt -- do  I want lettuce, tomato or not? wheat, rye or sourdough? I ask for iced tea -- do I want lemon or not? I add a cookie,-- do I want it in a bag or not? I pay for the order thinking that if I'd  shaken my head si or no, I'd leave with a headache.

However, if I were to buy a car, the scene would be about the same. Do I want a 4-door or a 2-door? Do I have a preference of make/model? Would I prefer a particular color? What about mileage? and the list goes on. The next time I purchase a car I'm going to hand the salesman a paper written with my preferences:

 white, specialty wheels, gas saver. soft top, white or black, leather seats, stick shift, automatic windows, compass, bright interior lights (did I leave out something important?)

A quick glance and if the salesman is a good one, can immediately inform me yes, no, or maybe. This time he makes the choice.

Of course, life isn't that easy. Next time you go somewhere, check yourself how many times in one trip you have to make choices. 

I Know I'm Getting Older

On two occasions when my husband and I wanted an item from a store, no clerk seemed to know what we were talking about.

R ran out of cotton handkerchiefs. He went to a large store, WM, found a clerk and asked, "Where are men's handkerchiefs?" The clerk looked into the air, apparently searching for an answer, then said, "I think you can find them in the bedding section."

Had handkerchiefs gone out of existence?

I ran into our popular McAllister's for two sandwiches one evening. I gave R's order, a tuna on rye; then I said "Let's see (thumbing through my mind of what I can eat, ignoring that fact and ordering anyway), " I'll have a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich on white." The youthful clerk wrinkled her brow and said, "I don't think we have those." The older clerk standing nearby said, "Hon, that's a BLT." "Oh," she smiled sheepishly and completed the order. I learned a lesson on keeping up on vocabulary.

R found his cotton handkerchiefs online. Six for $4. A steal. He didn't have to shop in person any more.

The kind of vocabulary I seem not to understand or use relates to the computer. After many hours spent with a tech online following instructions, I have to stop him and ask, "Now what is a router? Is it the big box connected to my screen?" or "Let me repeat your instruction so I understand: you want me to unplug the black cord from the big box and keep it off for 30 seconds. How fast can I count?"

I know I'm getting older.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Remembering One Friendship

This time of the year I receive a call from my friend G who lives in Texas. The other day I thought, "I'll surprise G with a call from here." Then I remembered: G died from cancer in the summer. I knew I should make the call to check on her husband, B.  Their daughter answered to say that her dad had died a month after her mother of an aneurism. Gone, two special people.

I'd met G during classes in 1959 at Mexico City College in Mexico, D. F. There was a six-weeks session given in Spanish. She and I shared one grammar class and  ate together for lunch. This was the only time we could speak English. She'd tell of living with a Mexican family and I'd share my living experience in a motel-like setting with a huge dog who only understood Spanish.

At the time she was a college student and I was married and expecting my first child. The ages didn't seem to matter. We shared the fun of learning.

When we separated we stayed in touch via letters: her graduation, her marriage, her children. Then emailing developed and we kept in touch more easily. We both  continued to learn. We  planned to have a reunion 25 years later at Mexico City College, which had changed its name and moved south of Mexico City. I couldn't spare the six weeks, a disappointment for me. She went alone and kept me up-to-date on her experience.

I saw her after that reunion-that-didn't happen, when our family traveled to Dallas on our way west for vacation; she in turn with her husband visited us years later on their way home from a conference.  Then it was back to emails.

Her last contact with me was by telephone: "Vivian, I'm calling to let you know I'm dying. I don't have long to live. I want you to know how much I've appreciated your friendship."  I found few words to reply, but I did with, "Are you OK with this situation?" She said she was surprised that she was. She worried about her husband who wasn't well.

She entered hospice and died a month later. Her husband called and that was the last time I heard his voice.

Dying is difficult on those who remain alive.  I miss my dear friend.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Autumn Photos


One of my Facebook friends lives in Maine. She often posts landscape photos to emphasize what all her friends and relatives are missing. I admit the windows looking onto the front of our house peer at a quiet street and a wooded lot across the street.  In the fall there is no exciting display of color from the tree leaves, only curled up, fallen leaves. Even the tree branches cast a wicked look on dreary days.  Here's one announcing fall:



Compare it with scenes of the season we spent in the Delaware area of New York.
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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lying Down on the Job

We don't often have to buy necessities that have a 10-20 year warranty. Refrigerator, check; freezer, check; washing machine, check; dryer; microwave, check.  Mattress??

Husband decided we needed a new mattress. The last one we bought was hardly five years old. When R decides to change a necessity he goes forward with such enthusiasm, it fizzles within 24 hours.

He spends hours perusing a model, checking his copy of Consumer Digest, musing about the size, the ability to perform.  And that goes for mattresses, also.

Everyone last Saturday who were shopping in the mattress department at a local store were serious enough to spend a lot of time lying down. One lady we met scrunched on a king-sizer, said she had been in the store every weekend lying on this and that mattress. She was determined to make a decision that afternoon. Every time we looked around she was splayed on another mattress. She had fibromyralgia, and it was important to her to get the right "feel" for her muscles. She was so educated on the type we were interested in, her testimony was as good as any salesman. This type was the all foam modeled after those developed by NASA.

Then R lay down on the first mattress guided by the sales clerk. He lay this way and that way, on his stomach, on his back. I lay down on my back and declared, "Not for me!" I was giving him the prerogative to choose which softness or firmness was best. I figured I could adjust with a board under my side. After several hours and the impending store closure, we left without a decision.

As I waited for R to decide, I glanced around the mattress area to fill my time. Sure enough, there were many couples and families lying around. I thought I'd snap their pictures and put a few on this blog. You'll notice how they choose to lie.

This is the lady who spent weeks resting on this mattress to be sure her money and body would benefit her choice.


This couple spent only awhile resting without coming to a decision



Saturday, September 06, 2014

Birthdays Come and Go Without Fanfare

You don't see many photographs in the newspaper these days of the celebration of a birthday, unless the celebrated one is 100 years old. We can't imagine ourselves getting to that point in life where someone else takes care of us and all we do is sit and watch TV. Too weak and weary. Enjoying fewer interests. Sitting and sleeping.

I have reminded my dentist, doctor, and opthlamologist that I plan to live to be 140 years old. They will have to resist retiring because I don't want new doctors at my age. I turned over the birthday leaves 82 times now. Do I want to be weak and weary, enjoying few interests, sit and watch TV all day? Absolutely not. I have chosen 140 as a far-reaching goal in which to keep myself healthy, learning, participating, and keeping in touch with my friends.  I refuse to say "I'm ready for the Lord to take me."

My birthdays are spent being remembered by a few close friends who continue to send cards I cherish and my children finding something hand-made or a book to read.  I now own a lovely hand-made frame holding a relaxed family in our front yard.  No perfume, no night out on the town, no elaborate gifts of any sort.

Because I was reared in a frugal  household, Mother always saw my sister and I had a new dress, or shoes, or socks. We didn't ask for expensive items. However, Mother's job as backstage manager for Merrill, Lynch Stockbrokers allowed her to earn a good salary when we were teens, She gave us small gifts we called "happies." When the Disney movie was shown in the theaters, one of the songs had a line, "We wish you a very happy unbirthday, to you, to you". And we began to call those happies, our unbirthday gifts.

I don't want to be 110 before I pass on. I won't be able to accomplish what I'm doing now. I'll find some reason to sit in a comfy chair and read or watch a movie on some new-fangled electronics, which I will try to understand the mechanics. No one will call me because I'll be so deaf I'll have to have a chalk board hanging around my neck for communication. I won't be able to eat out with friends because I'll be drinking only Ensure. The kids won't be able to stay around me long.

I've painted a dark side of my later life. There will be no dark side. I have too many friends and sweet-loving kids to help me avoid being nothing but bright.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

End of Summer Thoughts

I wasted, so I thought, the summer with little advancement in my writing. For years I've had stored in the computer two creative nonfiction stories written multiple times, attempting to find the best lede. Opening the story with an illustrious picture of words seemed to escape me.  During the early summer I read of a contest in Alabama. Figuring few readers or judges had ever heard of the topic of my CNF, I took one more look at the first paragraph of one story and decided this was the last time I would rewrite it. Sitting only a few minutes I remembered  the words of Rick Bragg  a few years ago .  "Make your opening so your reader wants to keep reading." Of course, many other writers have said the same thing, but I've not heard their words.

Typing as fast as I could with the words jumping around in my head I got the opening lines finished. Printed the 1500 word story and mailed in a recollection of my six-month stay at a state preventorium. What is a preventorium? A place like an orphanage or a boarding school especially for children who may or may not have TB.  I was sooooo skinny with little appetite, always a sickly brat, the utlimate place, my parents thought, was a stay with other kids who needed special attention. I returned home six months later before my eighth birthday. No one in the family talked about my time there and I pushed the experience into the recesses of my mind.  Only after I was married did I reveal what I thought was a terrible experience.

However, to view the time spent there with my today's mind, I realize I had a little paradise. I couldn't appreciate it because I wanted to be home with my parents and new sister. Eight years ago I began to write what I remembered. Then a  FaceBook site appeared  and I read about other little patients and how they coped with the loneliness.  The height of this early summer was to be reunited with some of these patients. They are grown men and women who felt as I had,  the necessity of keeping the "P" a secret. By exchanging memories I realized how different my recollection was from theirs. I was at the preventorium in 1940; they arrived anywhere from 1950-1960.  We cruised the grounds, saw some similarities of the now buildings to the then ones.Thoughts came tumbling.



My entry into the contest didn't include a lot of what I learned about others' memories, but I received the support I needed to let the public, however large or small it be, know there had been a place in central Mississippi, as well as many around the United States helping kids..

A creative nonfiction is taking facts and surrounding them with your story.  I explained how TB was detected in 1940, the purpose of the sanitorium for adults and the preventorium for children, the daily routine developed for us kids, and the attention the workers gave to us. We lived on a large campus and were supplied with all we needed.

My story entitled, "A Secret Place" will be published in the Alabama Writers Conclave emagazine AlaLit sometime next year.  I'm proud not only of winning first place (a certificate and $100) but of having the opportunity to get the story in print so others can learn of the scourge of tuberculosis and how the state played a part in stamping out the disease.

Oddly, I read online the information from the Mississippi Department of Health that not a single child living in the Preventorium were ever found to have tuberculosis.