A place where I can share interesting ideas and maybe get a few things off my chest

Stuff, American Style

storage bins

 We spent the day clearing out and reorganizing  some of our stuff. Not all of our stuff, just the stuff in two rooms in our house, one of which is completely devoted to storing our extra stuff. We call it “the spare room”, but there is nothing spare about it. It is full of off-season clothes and bedding, crafting stuff, sewing stuff, overflow office stuff, a file cabinet almost completely filled with absolutely necessary paper stuff, and stuff we haven’t looked at in years except to move it from here to there but no, we can’t get rid of it because it is Very Important Stuff.

We did clear out some old computer hardware and software – things that have zero compatibility with any computer still running anywhere – and I identified some things to take to family in Dallas when we visit over the holidays. My husband picked up some drawer bins at a garage sale a few weeks ago (from someone able to actually let go of some stuff), and I’ve washed them and put them in the already-crowded room in an attempt to at least have better access to all the stuff.

A lot of difficulties we encounter in our society are decidedly first-world ones, but I think dealing with an overflow of consumer goods is a peculiarly American problem. We not only have aisles in box stores completely devoted to storage, we have entire stores. I saw an article recently that said that if Britain were to join the U.S., it would be the 2nd poorest state, behind only Mississippi. A Forbes article makes a correction to that based on local cost-of-living rates and points out that taking that into consideration leaves Britain dead last. 

The original writer based a big portion of his conclusions on the relative GDPs. So, that means that the U.S. produces more stuff per person. And we work more hours than workers in European countries in order to produce the extra stuff. Then we’re too tired to do much more than watch television programs developed for the sole purpose of advertisers buying time to sell us stuff. So, we buy stuff we don’t really need because we have a little extra money made from making extra stuff. Or we buy stuff we need only because of the time-saving aspects so we at least have a little extra time to relax before we go back to work to make more stuff.

I would really love to have the opportunity to work fewer hours so I could have more time and less stuff.                 


Hungry Dog

As we packed to leave for our monthly weekend camping trip, I worried, as I always do, about how Mother would fare while were gone. She’s got lunch fixings and TV dinners and ice cream bars, her walker, her pillow, and the western channel, and the emergency button necklace that is essentially a cell phone with one giant button that only dials the emergency service we pay for on a monthly basis. She is at home by herself on the weekdays she doesn’t go to the Senior Center, and does just fine, but I still worry, even though the PT who worked with her last year said she has clients less “with it” than Mom who still manage to live on their own.

This time, since we had an event planned with friends for early Saturday, we decided to leave on Friday evening, and also decided to leave the dogs so they wouldn’t be cooped up in their kennels while we were gone a good portion of the day on Saturday. They could also to keep Mother company, as her biggest complaint when we take our camping weekends is how much she misses us and how lonely it is without anyone at home with her. We did something similar in May, when we went to Disney, and it worked out well with one of our friends checking in on her and also making sure the dogs were being fed.

In May, Steve made up little bags with the dogs’ names on them for their breakfast and dinner, but Mom didn’t feed them breakfast. She doesn’t normally see them being fed breakfast, and I wasn’t sure she had been able to read the baggies Steve had fixed up. This time, I made sure he used labels, and then showed Mom the bags and explained how the dogs ate twice per day and how each dog had separate breakfast and dinner baggies for each day.

She didn’t call all weekend and since we were so busy, I didn’t think to call until after she would have gone to sleep. I told myself everything was fine, but I was still worried a little, and all kinds of outrageous scenarios played through my mind. We’d get home and find her fallen, with the dogs sitting beside her, keeping watch. Or we’d get home to find the dogs locked in the garage, having barked themselves hoarse because she couldn’t hear them. Or she would have become incapacitated and missed feeding the dogs and they would decide she would make a fine meal substitute.

Fortunately, none of those uglier things came to pass, but little Sophie, who really doesn’t need to miss a meal, didn’t get to eat all weekend. While I thought  I had been very clear on how to feed the dogs, and Mother made yes-I-understand noises, she really didn’t get it.

Dog food bags 2014-08-17 17.53.52

Gracie gets dog food from the supermarket, which comes in good-sized crunchy bites. Sophie, with her little, tiny mouth and delicate tiny dog teeth, gets food from the pet store that resembles cat food, because it is the only food she can chew. Instead of feeding each dog from the marked packets, Mom split Gracie’s food bag between the two dog’s bowls (the only reason one of Sophie’s bags above is empty is because I used it to feed her right after we got home – she was really hungry!). When we got home, she told us that The Little Dog (she has a hard time remembering Sophie’s name) hadn’t eaten hardly anything while we were gone. I tried to explain to her that Sophie couldn’t eat the big pieces of dog food and how we had specifically marked the bags. Mom kept nodding and agreeing with me as if we were saying the same thing and  just kept saying how she tried to feed The Little Dog but she wouldn’t eat anything.

How often do you think dog-sitters are hired to come in and feed dogs when someone is still at home?

In front of the Oldsmar Library

In front of the Oldsmar Library

At lunch yesterday, my co-workers and I were talking about the state of our society and how everything is so much worse and so much scarier than in prior eras. (Our ages vary, and so the prior eras remembered vary, as well.)

I had to put forth that not only do I not think things are worse, but that they are actually better and improving exponentially. Our perception of sickness and evil in our society is greatly skewed by the 24-hour news cycles, the ubiquity of negative stories (often clickbait) across the entirety of the internet, catastrophized, mud-slinging and muckraking rhetoric between political factions, and human beings’ penchant for focusing on what is most threatening and fearsome.

The very fact that many of these things are in the news at all is, in and of itself, a sign of hope. Horrifying things that make the news cycles would often have not been considered newsworthy at all in prior centuries. A hundred years ago, women and children were considered chattel. A hundred years before that, many people were literally chattel. The first child abuse prosecution was done through animal abuse laws, as there were no laws in place protecting children from being beaten or starved by their supposed caregivers.

Cesar Chavez’ efforts helped empower U.S. farm workers.

The Civil Rights Movement empowered people of color.

The Feminist movement, growing out of the Civil Rights Movement, helped many women realize that subordination is not part of the natural order of things.

Until Candy Lightner got MADD, drunk driving was only considered to be somewhat foolish, and drunken wrecks were just considered accidents.

And those are all examples just from the 20th century in the United States.

So many areas of society are so much better in so many ways, I just don’t have time to go on because I have to get ready for work – my work in child welfare, a job that didn’t exist a century ago, and that, as a woman, I couldn’t have held anyway.

Scans From A Shoebox

Have A Coke

I have know idea who this is; I just like the composition of the photo.

That’s the name of the folder open on my desktop. The photos aren’t in a shoebox now; they’re in a copy paper box, because the boot box they were in for as far back as I can remember finally deteriorated beyond the point of keeping anything contained. Aunt Helen, Mother’s older sister, had rows of photo albums with pictures of family and her trips to Europe neatly labeled in chronological order. We had a boot box that had originally held workboots that Dad had worn out and discarded before I was born.

I’ve been meaning to digitally scan these photos for years, and finally started a few days ago. Most of them are of family. Many are of people I don’t know and except for a couple, the only clues are notes I made in pencil on the backs of some of them over three decades ago. I would like to go through them with Mother and ask her about the people in them, but I’m afraid the exercise will be frustrating for both of us.

The photos of family members I recognize, I’m dividing into large envelopes to send to representative members of each family group. They may already have copies of these photos, but they might not, and maybe they can pencil in all the details and make interesting albums and give the pictures somewhere to live besides in a box in a closet.

We recently went to a to-remain-unnamed Italian restaurant near our home. The waitress was pleasant and the food was adequate to the task of making us no longer hungry, but that’s about all I can say to recommend it. As I thought about what kind of review I might give it, I realized that I don’t have the streak of meanness necessary to be a good food critic, or really a critic of anything. It was not horrible, there might be other things to recommend the restaurant that we didn’t sample (although we did have the night’s specials – one would think they would have something to recommend them, but I digress), and it is someone’s livelihood and perhaps even pride and joy. So, I’ve decided that unless a restaurant is truly horrible in some way, I will not post negative reviews of merely disappointing dining experiences.

Which brings me 180 degrees to City Fish Grill in Oldsmar. A co-worker recommended this restaurant almost two years ago, and even though it’s only a few blocks from our home, we had never been, mostly because it’s packed on Friday and Saturday nights and we never plan ahead well enough to remember to make reservations. Last weekend, though, we were at a nearby hotel attending a conference and knew in advance we’d want to eat somewhere very nearby. We reserved a table for 10 early in the evening and when we arrived were greeted by very friendly staff and shown immediately to our table even though our party was incomplete.

I wish I had thought to photograph everyone’s dinners, especially the Seafood Tower, an appetizer one of our group ordered as his main meal. The first thing on our table was the hot bread served with dishes of olive oil swirled with a balsamic reduction and a little shredded parmesan. I had a cup of she-crab bisque (served in a good-sized bowl – I don’t know how big the bowl of soup would have been) that was delicious. I guess the bisque satisfied my craving for seafood, because I then ordered their special filet mignon topped with a blueberry/balsamic reduction glaze. The feta au gratin potatoes were not as tasty as I might have liked, but then I had already had she-crab soup and a 9-oz filet to tackle.

The finishing touch, though, was the vanilla crème brûlée. I love crème brûlée. And although I am always on the quest for the perfect crème brûlée, I have only a vague memory of perhaps having once had a mediocre crème brûlée – never a bad one. City Fish’s crème brûlée, though, definitely falls into the delicious category. A generous portion of wonderfully rich and creamy vanilla custard topped with beautiful, crisp caramel that made a delightful crunch as I broke through it with my spoon (fans of Amelie will appreciate that reference), and garnished with blueberries and whipped cream. It was beautiful and delicious.



We will definitely be going there again. It’s good enough to remember to make reservations for.

I was at a presentation over the weekend about Native American music. One of the presenters mentioned having had a DNA profile done a few years back by Ancestry.com for about $200. I came home and looked it up and now it’s only $89!

Mom has always talked about how much her dad showed his Indian blood and how she inherited his olive complexion and brown eyes, while both of her sisters had blue eyes like their mother, and I’ve always wondered about my possible Native American background.

He looks Indian, right?

Mott Moore c. 1950s – He looks like he could have been in one of those old westerns, right?

But now, as I’m typing this, I realize that the story I heard from my mother’s uncle about his grandmother, who would have been Mother’s great-grandmother, being full-blood Cherokee, was on her mother’s side of the family!

Okay, now I’m REALLY interested in checking out this DNA test thing. Order the kit for $89, spit in a tube and send it back, and get a breakdown of your ethnic heritage. This has now taken a spot on the WANT! list above those bright-and-shiny earrings I’ve been eyeing.


Busy Saturday with Mom

I told Mom we’d leave for the bank around 10:00 or 11:00. But since I didn’t get up until almost 10:00, my leisurely coffee drinking and morning surfing delayed our departure until around 11:30. And Mother only told me about three times that she was ready to go whenever I was, and just when was I planning on leaving. When we arrived at the bank, there was a bit of a line, about four people ahead of us. After a couple of minutes, Mom had to maneuver her walker over so that she could lean against one of the cabinets.

When we got back to the car, I told Mom we were going to have lunch before going to Fantastic Sams. She was underwhelmed and said that she wasn’t really hungry, but if I was we could do that. Then she asked me if I needed any money. I told her that I didn’t offer to take her to lunch expecting her to pay for it.

We went around the corner to Nosh! and split one of their breakfast sandwiches they press on Cuban bread. Very yummy. Mom ate every bite of hers, plus a bag of chips. Their special coffee flavor of the day was Honey Almond, which I had iced. Because you can never have too much coffee. Or at least I can’t. Especially not on perm day.

When Mom gets her hair permed, it looks kinda like this (except not blonde):

She’s worn this hairstyle since the early ’80’s. It’s easy for her to care for and she believes it hides that fact that she has a funny-shaped head. (I have never noticed that her head is shaped oddly – must be one of those childhood-anchored self-image things.) The hair stylists tell me that getting her hair trimmed a couple of times in between perms will keep it looking nice, because the weight of the hair that has grown out is what pulls  the curl out. But she won’t believe this, from me or the salon ladies, and so she just waits until it’s time for another perm before going back, which means that by the time I can get her to the salon, she has begun to look an awful lot like Brian May:


Wilma has been giving Mom her perms since we moved here over five years ago, but when we went today, we found that Wilma was no longer there. I thought this might be a problem, but Mother didn’t seem concerned and the owner assured us he could instruct the stylist on mom’s preferences. Her perms take about an hour-and-a-half (it takes awhile to roll up all those little blue rods), so I took myself across the street to Serenity Now to hang out with the very upbeat ladies always womanning the shop, look at all their colorful and bright-and-shiny objects, and try not to spend too much money (successful with #1 and #2, not so much with #3). After hanging out there for what seemed like enough time, I went back across the street to find that Mom still had about a half-hour to go. More waiting. Bummer.

I went next door to Gino’s NY Style Pizzeria, bought a large soda (Coca-Cola, with about 20% root beer – try it, really), and finally did my morning journaling at 2:30 in the afternoon. I grabbed one of their take-away menus to look over for our next “Try A New Restaurant Night”, since everything on the menu looked great, and the manager was very attentive, even though I was just having a soda and taking up space while waiting for Mom to be done.

When she was finally ready, we made our one last stop at the drug store to pick up her scripts and headed home, four hours after we had started out.




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