Old Dogs and New Tricks

You CAN teach old dogs new tricks! I’m proof. I’m solidly between 7 and 8 dog years old, which makes me old-ish in both people and dog years. I’ve learned some new things over the past few months, though. I’ve taken on some new hobbies.

Walking is one of them. OK, so I’ve known how to walk since I was about 10 months old (mere days in dog time) – I was an early achiever. I’ve tried to walk the dogs regularly, but between incredibly hot and sticky weather in the summer, and rainy weather in the fall and winter, along with a few canine injuries – I just wasn’t getting in as much walking time as a person of 7 – 8 dog years should. The time I might have been walking was being replaced with time in the recliner.

Torture Equipment

I needed to do something about that. So – Rod and I pooled our Christmas money and purchased our new evil enemy. It’s a Sole. Treadmill. After Rod did copious internet research and spent several hours checking out the selection at a local fitness store, he brought home the monstrosity. It only took the help of one neighbor to carry it into the basement and assemble it.

Since that day, I have banked about 10 miles per week. I admit that with some pride because I don’t really want to walk on the treadmill. I would rather spend La-Z-Boy time; however, my waistline dictates that I must walk.

I don’t mind exercise. In fact, once I start I rather enjoy it, and I know that I feel better for the 10 mile weeks. I am not, however, a work-out fiend, like those that spend hours per day at a gym. There is no way in this dog-eat-dog world that I would subject myself to a public gym. No one needs to witness me suffering so. Besides, it would be frowned upon to yell out in public the ugliness that I spew upon the Sole.

I’m only smiling because Rod is taking a picture.

However, I dutifully make my way to the evil enemy at least four times per week, set the Sole on “interval” and walk (and even jog a little) for 56 minutes. In that time, I cover 2 miles, even though:

  • It makes me sweat. It has been said that horses perspire, men sweat and women feel the heat. Well, that’s bull, because on that Sole, I sweat. A lot. I don’t like to sweat. It’s wet and nasty. I rarely sweat when I’m sitting in the recliner, but for when I have a hot flash, which are not voluntary. Why would I want to cause myself to sweat? And after sweating – I need to shower. That means standing up. That means not sitting in the recliner.
  • It hurts. My calves ache by minute 32, which leaves 24 minutes of PAIN. One of Eric’s PE commanders in the Army said that “Pain is weakness leaving your body.” If that’s the case, I’m spilling weakness all over the Sole. I’m not a masochist, yet I persist through the torture all the while knowing that the recliner is oh so comfy!
  • Though I don’t consider myself to be a control freak, it bothers me that the Sole determines at what pace I will walk and how many hills I will climb. When I want to take a leisurely stroll, the enemy forces me to jog or climb a hill. And it doesn’t listen to me when I yell at it to slow the hell down!!

Yet, I continue. I know it is the right thing to do – like eating an apple for a snack rather than a bag of Ruffles. Sigh. Such is my love/hate relationship. The Sole hates me and beats me up. I hate it right back. The recliner loves me. And I love the recliner.

My love.

This Political Season

Oh my goodness! Can you believe this political season? I try to make a point of not sharing my political or religious views on any social platform. This one time, though, I can’t help but comment on the current commentary and this political race! My political views don’t mean much anyway, since I am not eligible to vote in the USA. In fact, since emigrating here from Canada in 1991, the only thing I’ve been allowed to vote for is the Teacher of the Year award. Since moving into School Psychology, I’ve been stripped of even that ballot. Oh well.

I like to try to stay up-to-date on current events and politics. I must say, though, that doing so becomes more and more difficult. It’s not because of a lack of information. There are several 24 hour news channels available to me. However, I find more and more that what I see and hear on those sources is little more than what I like to call bird-walking.

Let me illustrate: I am interviewing a teenaged student and ask, “So did you study for this test on which you did so poorly?”

The teen responds, “Well, you know that I have ADHD and my mom picked me up after school and we went to Taekwando and I was practicing there when I fell and broke my front tooth and sprained my ankle. So my Dad was out of town and he had the insurance card with him and I had to sit in the car while my Mom went to get 10 pounds of ice for my ankle and I couldn’t drink anything because it would sting my tooth. . . ” and so on and so on.

When the student pauses to take a breath, I usually say something like, “Well, I’m sorry to hear that. But what I asked you was, did you study for the test?”

What the student did was go on a bird walk. Distraction. Smoke and mirrors. Verbal slight of hand. Most kids eventually grow out of bird walking. Those that don’t become either professional Bird Dancers. Or political commentators. Or politicians.

Photo credit: kshb.com

Photo credit: kshb.com

So there are no straight answers. Listening to political talk on television feels like a giant bird walk. I try to follow the rantings, but so often it feels like responses to straight forward questions take me down a rabbit hole, through some wacky underground tunnel and dumps me somewhere out at sea.  Perhaps this is because the topics are so complicated? Since no one seems to be able to solve the problems that are all the rage at the moment, maybe these powerful people could tackle some simpler, but vexing problems:

  1. Can someone (preferably me) be put in charge of making decisions about whether or not a classic piece of music can be covered? I’m not talking classiCAL here. Classic pop and rock. For example, whoever had the idea that Lenny Kravitz should record “American Woman” was out of their mind! The Guess Who OWN that song and ARE that song. I dread the day that some young whippersnapper thinks that they should record “Free Bird” or “Carry on Wayward Son.” I shudder to think.

    guess who

    Photo credit: amazon.com

  2. Can someone (preferably me) be put in charge of correcting spelling and grammar in fliers, signs and advertisements? Fingernails on a blackboard (you whippersnappers won’t understand) are less grating than the take-out menu that brags, “We Delivery.” I wanted to climb to the ceiling in a meeting room one day and correct the sign on the overhead projector that informed everyone that the projector wasn’t working “do to a water leak.” And I just wouldn’t be able to drop my children off here:

    School sign

    Photo credit: libertycannonmedia.com

  3. Could someone (preferably not me) be put in charge of restricting merchants from premature seasonal displays? Three days ago my local grocery store had their entire seasonal aisle closed down. Why? Because they need to RUSH to get the Halloween merchandise on the shelves. Really? It’s not even September. There aren’t even ripe pumpkins yet, for Pete’s sake! Little kids will change their minds dozens of time about costumes between now and October 31, people!! I’d like to suggest a two week display, but as a gesture to the over-achievers, I could put up with three weeks of candy corn.
  4. Seriously. Could someone do something about this:national debtI don’t think so. At the very least, I think this would be answered with a bird walk.

It’s Puzzling

I have somewhat of an addictive personality. It’s puzzling the things to which I become overly attached. I generally have a decent amount of self-discipline. I don’t allow myself to start reading fiction during the school year. Once I get involved in a book, I can’t put it down. I lose too much sleep staying up late reading and go to work too drowsy. So I save reading fiction for school breaks.

puzzle piecesI generally save jigsaw puzzles for school vacations also. I have a puzzle of Father Christmas, given to me by my dear sister (thank you, Linda) in 1994. I’ve put it together every Christmas since then. Each year I finish it a little quicker than the year before. Each year I think that I won’t put it together. But the addictive gene in me won’t let me not do it.

Recently, I realized that I had become a little addicted to the recliner in the family room. I was spending entirely too much time in it – usually with my iPad. Entire evenings would go by and I would barely move from it. Especially since the school year has begun again, I would come home from work and PLOP! My friend the recliner would wrap me up and I would become sedentary.

I decided that it was time to pull out a jigsaw puzzle and move around a little. You think that puzzling is just sitting at a different place. You would be wrong. While putting together this beach scene, I am constantly moving around that table, standing most of the time, and putting some visual problem solving skills to work. I’ve even become fairly good at walking away once the sun goes down, and resuming the puzzle the next day. new puzzle

Maybe I could practice this new disciplined approach to some of the other things that have an especially strong pull on me:

  • pasta
  • chocolate cake
  • wine on Friday nights
  • shoes
  • chocolate chip cookies
  • wine on Saturday nights
  • chocolate

I must go. The sun will soon be down and the puzzle is calling me – and it’s a long way from done!

some done

Feeling a Little Old

When school starts on Monday, I will begin my 18th year with Gwinnett County Public Schools. So – I’m feeling a little old. If you are trying to guess my age by adding 18 years to, let’s say, 22 – when most people graduate university (The University of Manitoba, in my case), you would be making a grave underestimate. I spent several years teaching in Canada before we moved to the United States, and several more at home with little ones before I re-entered my career in Georgia for the 1998-1999 school year.

Seeing the students at the Open House at one of my high schools today reminded me, once again, that I’m no spring chicken! Many of the students that I will see this year have never known a world without cell phones, without personal computers or online banking, without Playstation or X-Box, without instant messaging or Facebook; and were not even born on that terrible 11th of September when the towers came down. They’ve lived their entire lives in a world with electronic “social media”.

Just to prove that I’ve been around through a lot of changes, I can tell you that for all the times that a post has appeared on Facebook with the caption, “Share if you remember this,” there has been one time that the pictured item was unfamiliar to me. Not remembering that thing did more to make me feel younger than new hair color, a great facial and Spanx combined.

As a means of examples:

I remember when we were limited to three channels on television: CBC, CTV and an ABC affiliate out of North Dakota. I remember watching American Bandstand on Saturday Iandian headmornings and The Chiller Thriller on Saturday nights, just before midnight when alltelevision signed off. If you wanted to stay up and watch a little longer, you would stare at the Indian Chief’s head. You were better off going outside and watching the stars. Much more entertaining. When we complained that there was nothing on TV, we were serious.

I remember the telephone at the farm. It was a rectangular wooden box with a crank on the right hand side, a receiver on the left hand side and and two bells with a hammer between them on the front. That telephone was on the wall in the kitchen, and was connected by an actual physical wire to the rest of the world. Well, most closely attached to a couple of neighbors with whom we shared the line. That was called a party line. Before you made a call, you would have to politely say, “Busy?” before you could  crank the handle (that’s how we dialed), so as to not interrupt Ruth, one of our neighbors, who

Something like this

Something like this

loved to talk on the phone. We didn’t have any kind of privacy on the phone. Even after we moved into town and graduated up to TWO phones in the house (rotary dial on a private line), our conversations with our friends took place while wired into the wall. One had to be very judicious about what they said since everyone in the house could hear.

bank bookWhen I had my first savings account at a local bank, I actually had to go to the bank, with my little bit of money in my hands, turn it and a little dark covered book over to the bank teller who would record the deposit in my booklet with a pencil! Funds simply did not and could not travel through air and space way back then.

Playing a game required two or more people to sit down at a table, or spread a board and game pieces out on the floor. Most often there would be a pair of dice and a sheet of rules to follow. I think I was a teenager when the first electronic game was sold. The teens that I meet this year would think that Simon was lame.

What progress we have made! Sort of. I’m glad that my parents were able to supervise who and when I communicated with others. I’m grateful that I was required to temper what I would say because they could hear. It wasn’t so bad that we had to wait until all 12 or 24 frames on photo film were sent away to be developed before we could reminisce over a special event. We could be judicious about who saw our “pics”, see what we were doing and with whom. We only had to remember the sound of two ring tones: the telephone in the hall and the doorbell. Staying in touch with friends took effort. Privacy was easy and expected.

I’m not so sure that all the techno-stuff is healthy for our youth. I’m thankful to be able to use it. I’m also thankful that I’m an adult and have an understanding of technology’s place in my life. I’m also certain that many of the young people that I will meet this year have a much, much different relationship with their families and friends than I did. Because of their phones.

I’m glad that I’m feeling a little old because I had the chance to spend my youth interacting face to face.




Aberdeen, North Carolina

For those of you who have read The Charm, you know that Rhonda is my fellow road warrior. During the time of my intermission, Rhonda and I have taken three road trips. Last July, on the last weekend before my return to work, she and I travelled to Aberdeen, North Carolina, to see our dear friend Kim. We returned to Aberdeen in April, along with one of Kim’s dearest friends, Nikki, to surprise Kim on her birthday.

Dubsmash Trio

Dubsmash Trio

I am proud to say that on our first trip, Rhonda and I got lost only once, and that delay only cost us a few minutes. What took us the longest time was navigating through a traffic circle just a few miles from our destination. The problem was not that we had never been in a traffic circle before, I had. I just had never been so confused, confounded and amused by one before.

The first problem was that Kim’s directions said to exit the circle at the third road and our navigation device said to exit on Midland Road. While I counted the possible exits, Rhonda read the directional signs. Our two methods did not coincide and we missed both the third exit and Midland Road. That did not present a major problem since we were on a traffic circle, after all, and simply ventured round the circle again. However, since we were on a circle, we rounded back to the same place, and once again missed both the third exit and Midland Road. Our second miss was mostly on account of my becoming somewhat whopper-jawed and had lost Rhonda and Kimsight of our original entrance point, thereby making it difficult to discern which of those dog-gone roads was the third! On our next time around, we were still in the center lane when we passed by Midland Road, and by the fourth roundabout, both Rhonda and I were totally discombobulated and were not even sure that we were in North Carolina. By that time, we were laughing to the point of tears, which made navigation even more daunting. As our hilarity and vertigo set firmly in, we were somehow able to ease into the right hand lane, make one more loop and finally take our exit onto Midland Road.

We convinced ourselves at the time that the people in the other cars, both those queuing up to enter the circle, and those playing merry-go-round with us, didn’t notice that we were taking more than our fair share of turns in the center circle. Thinking back on it now, they may have been wondering what on earth we were doing.

The remainder of our weekend was in a dizzying lineup of activity. We quenched our hunger and thirst, and dove deeply into Smule and Dubsmash. We tried out hairstyles at Kim’s shop: The Cottage of Hope, where Kim serves clients being treated for breast cancer. We shopped and went sight seeing, and talked and talked and talked and talked. It was a wonderful weekend. It was a perfect way to top off my summer vacation. It was too soon over, and Rhonda and I donned our new road warrior tank tops and set off for home.

Road Warriors

Road Warriors

We twirled around the traffic circle only twice on our departure. Just because.