Jul 062016
 
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sunset, Seagrove Beach, FL, 2005

July 6, 2016 — Over the weekend, we watched a TV show that features people hunting for a perfect private island. A couple, Larry and Lubya, toured three islands near Fiji, with a realtor.  Each island had fantastic views. Who can imagine purchasing an island for several million dollars? No wonder these shows are popular; most of us probably fantasize along with the couple about our private island.

Something the male half of the couple said stuck in my mind as he pondered an island with great views.

“You can put your lawn chair toward the sunrise, and turn it around for the sunset.”

Well, duh.  I’ve thought about it ever since. The sun rises everywhere, and the sun sets everywhere.  You can put your lawn chair toward the sunrise, and turn it around for the sunset in Thailand or Abilene, Texas.  While there may not be the Pacific Ocean spread out before you, there are amazing, wonderful surprises all over the world.  It’s just a matter of perspective.

While I’ll never see a sunrise or sunset in Fiji, I’ve viewed beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

I’ve been blessed all my life to enjoy sunsets such as the one pictured above in my beloved Florida. I prefer the moments just after the yellow orb dips into the horizon, and colors up and down the spectrum glitter across the water.

Sunset in my backyard is amazing almost every evening.  Deer like to traverse our yard from the neighboring woods to travel to the lake across the street. We’ve seen as many as seven in the dim, amber light after sunset. To be honest, I’ve not seen that many sunrises in my life, but one stands out. If I never saw another, this morning on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon would fill my soul with enough joy to last a lifetime. We stayed at the Grand Canyon Lodge and got up early (not usual for us) and walked to an area where a large, wooden cross stood against a view to the east.  Seeing the sun rise over the canyon with the cross in the foreground lacks appropriate words or pictures to describe its magnificence. The sunrise view was a once-in-a-lifetime, take-your-breath-away experience. If this scene had a score, it would be “How Great Thou Art.”

Not all our days are beach days or sunrises over a sublime slice of the earth.  But, we have been given a gift; we can “move our lawn chairs” either way and catch the sunrise or sunset, wherever we are. The day after my mother died, the sun rose as it always does. The day my son was diagnosed with autism, the sun set.

Move your  Adirondack or camping seat or cushioned wicker couch often and take in the beauty around you. It’s a matter of perspective.

 

 

May 142016
 

Snow White 5May 14, 2016 — Yes, it’s me, Snow White. Do you remember I won an Oscar in 1939? Child star Shirley Temple presented Walt Disney a special Oscar for his first film-length animated feature “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”   Seven small duplicate Oscars accompanied the larger one. The diminutive Oscars were for my dear friends and former roommates,  Happy, Dopey, Grumpy, Sleepy, Doc, Sneezy, and Bashful.

I am the very same Snow White, who starred as a maiden in the Oscar-winning film nearly 80 years ago.

You probably wonder what has happened to my compatriots and me.

Someday my Prince will come.  I found my Prince Charming at the end of the film. We had a wonderful life together. He swept me off my feet,  out of the woods, and into the high rent district. We lived in his paternal grandmother’s castle. His family is noted for longevity.  His grandmother the Queen, his grandfather the Duke, and his father are still alive. His grandmother turned ninety this year. Pity the poor fool who has to wait that long to be king.

I’m no longer living in the castle. My dear one died in an unfortunate accident in the equestrian competition at the 1960 summer Olympics. Charming’s skill as a calvary officer was well known. However,  his dressage horse Hoof Hearted didn’t get the email and threw Charming over a fence. My beloved met an untimely and unfortunate death.

My children (Barry and Vanna) and I initially moved in with my sister Betty.  Our arrangement didn’t last. Betty’s house was overrun with dogs. The children developed severe allergies.

Barry left us a decade ago and is with his father.  Vanna has an excellent, well-paying job. She helps me as much as she can. But, I can’t live with my daughter. Her great room features a huge alphabet board, and worse,  a  shiny, lighted, neon wheel looms over the house and makes noise.

I took a day job at a hospital, and this week we celebrated National Hospital Week. I love my co-workers, so I decided to surprise them and dress in my costume from my first and only movie.

Can you believe that’s a wig in the picture?  Snow White has snow white hair now. I was pleased to find a plus-sized costume on Amazon. Snow may have put on a few pounds since the movie. So, I look like a tugboat in my Princess costume. The film was a long time ago. You should see my former roommates; they’ve gone to pot. Sleepy has marks on his face from staying in bed most of the time. Bashful is whacked out from taking pills for 80 years for Social Anxiety Disorder.

Heigh Ho. Heigh Ho. Where did the heck those boys go? The word dwarf is now politically incorrect, so I’ll just refer to them as little people. Only five of them are alive.  Due to climate change, Sneezy’s allergies worsened, and the little fellow succumbed to COPD years ago.

Doc ripped out my heart. I’m sad to report he committed suicide. His reimbursement rate from Medicare and Medicaid dipped so low he couldn’t pay his overhead. And don’t mention those three ex-wives.

Dopey always enjoyed working with people with his “sales personality.” He’s now the Midwestern Director for the Donald J. Trump Campaign for President.

The other four had difficulty finding work and moved to China where they got work as Internet trolls.  We hear Grumpy has a lead on some of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

My grandchildren don’t know about my fame. They see me as a white-haired little old lady who works in a hospital, wears Alfred Dunner, and likes to listen to Tommy Dorsey. Perhaps some things are better left in the past.

Apple, anyone?

 

May 092016
 

By User:Aka (File:Chocolate.jpg) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By User:Aka (File:Chocolate.jpg) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This week I’ve been approached to support a children’s dance class, a high school mission trip, a college sports trip, an elementary soccer league, and a private school fundraiser.

Are we solicited because we have a soft touch, or are we simply soft-headed? My husband is worse than I am. He’s contributed to “Laplanders for Botox” or something as equally arbitrary. We don’t need garbage bags via a fundraising organization that takes a huge percentage off the top. But, wait, there’s more!  Donate more and get 100 additional monogrammed trash bags today and all the penguins of Antarctica get new bowler hats.

To be fair, I’ve worked in professional development and as a volunteer in the disability community. My hands reached out for many a friend and family member. We do, however, try to reciprocate, but this is something else.

From the time our son was asked to sell World’s Finest chocolate bars, we insisted he do the selling himself. It was a teachable moment.  I showed him the ropes. He was raising money for the elementary school band, where he gave a less than stellar performance with his rented baritone horn.

At first, we didn’t allow him to solicit outside of friends and family.

For the fourth-grader, that meant a somewhat scripted phone conversation with his maternal grandparents and his paternal grandmother. He called a few other relatives and hit up the elderly ladies in his fan club at church. He had success and moved on to Boy Scout popcorn.

Our son and his friend donned their regal uniforms and pulled a wagon through the neighborhood. Who isn’t a soft touch for a man in uniform? Again, our son hit up the relatives and his community and church groupies.

Something has changed in the 15 years since he started his sales career. This change is well illustrated by a story my now-adult son told me. His co-worker approached him to buy a bauble or coupon book from her child.

My son said, “I will, but my parents always made me ask myself. They said I was the sales person, and I had to do it.”

His co-worker replied, “But, my child is five.”

ENOUGH already.

I repeat, I am a soft touch, and sponsor most things. I’m also aware that civic and school organizations don’t have resources, and I’m happy to support them. My family has a tradition of scholarships at several state universities.  But…

I suggest three ways a child can improve his sales, and learn some valuable life lessons, like speaking to adults respectfully, understanding rejection, and following through with orders.

Here are my three suggestions, with apologies to the real estate industry and their location x 3 mantra.

  1. Let your child sell his stuff.
  2. Let your child sell his stuff.
  3. Let your child sell his stuff.

I am more likely to buy from a child (even if the parent is standing a distance back) than I am from a co-worker who slips a sheet in front of my face. Or worse yet, asks me randomly, “Do you like going to the movies?” Yes, my co-worker has a bargain on discounted tickets for the local theater to benefit youth soccer. The most egregious are the emails sent to an entire contact list on behalf of their young child.

Don’t call me Grinch. If your child is too young to sell products, you should not do it for them. Many workplaces have no solicitation policies, resulting in a breakroom with multiple jewelry, purse, food, and makeup catalogs as well as the goodies schoolchildren sell.

This morning I gave a co-worker a check. My son purchased whatever it was from the parent of the 5-year-old. Our names must be on a list somewhere.

Cross-posted at BlogHer under different title. http://www.blogher.com/3-ways-improve-your-childs-fundraising

 

 

Apr 222016
 
Courtesy Erma Bombeck Archives, University of Dayton

Courtesy Erma Bombeck Archives, University of Dayton

Twenty years ago today Erma Bombeck died at 69 of complications from a kidney transplant. Bombeck, a native of Dayton, Ohio, rose to fame as a newspaper columnist, author, and ultimately, regular guest on “Good Morning, America.”  At her peak, she wrote three columns a week for 900 newspapers. She never won a Pulitzer prize and didn’t make it off the then-Women’s Pages.

Her legacy endures today among a new generation of women, and some men, writers, mothers, fathers, and humorists.

The University of Dayton holds Bombeck’s papers and established the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop. I was fortunate to attend the biennial workshop in March 2016. It was much more than a writer’s workshop.  The three-day event was a tribute to Bombeck and her family, as well as a “hands-on” workshop with A-list speakers, writers, and humorists, including Roy Blount, Jr., Kathy Kinney and Cindy Ratzlaff, Leighann Lord, Alan Zweibel, Amy Ephron and Gina Barreca.

Every day when participants entered the conference center, we were greeted with one of Erma’s old IBM Selectric typewriters. For writers who “composed at the typewriter” on machines like this one and their non-electric predecessors, seeing Erma’s typewriter was magical.

Photo by author, University of Dayton, March 2016

Photo by author, University of Dayton, March 2016″composed at the typewriter” on machines

Why does Erma Bombeck matter today?

My mother read Erma’s “At Wit’s End” newspaper column and all of her books. Like millions of other women, Mom clipped out her favorites and stuck them on the refrigerator. She frequently chased me around the house to read a portion of Erma’s column. Mom, who had a silly streak and an excellent sense of humor, often quoted Erma.

Erma’s writing is ordinary, yet extraordinary. It takes tremendous skill to garner laughter and tears from the same anecdote. Her work is timeless and accessible. In a strange way, my discovery of Erma in my fifties is a link to my late mother, as well as further understanding of her life. All three Bombeck children, Betsy, Andrew, and Matt,  also Boomers,  attended the conference. and I imagine it was beautiful and terrible for them at the same time. Workshop attendees loved their mother, and none of them knew her personally. But, we all knew her, her home, her longings, her view of the world. She spoke for the generation of our mothers.

When I was an adolescent and starting writing, the last person I wanted to emulate was Erma Bombeck.  She’s a housewife, for heaven’s sake. I didn’t then have much appreciation for the love and sacrifice my mother — also, college educated like Erma — had for my brother and me.  No, I wanted to be Joan Didion or Judith Viorst or Gloria Steinem.

Bombeck 2

Courtesy Erma Bombeck Archives, University of Dayton

My first job involved all writing, the second job less writing, and more administration, and soon I was in management with little creativity. I managed an advertising agency account, but my “hands-on” days were over. I still yearned to write.  Multiple life transitions gave me that opportunity in 2009.  I started writing again and haven’t stopped since. Interestingly, my life was less like Gloria Steinem’s and more like Erma Bombeck’s.

As is the case for many female Baby Boomer humor writers, people tell me sometimes I remind them of Erma Bombeck.  I’ll never be Erma Bombeck, but I’m okay to stand in a sliver of her reflected glory. I’ve been privileged to have several of my pieces published on the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop site (click here).  I also had the honor to interview on of the Bombeck (adult) children for a Senior Wire News Service piece.

Erma Bombeck quotes from “Brainy Quotes.”

The only reason I would take up jogging is so that I could hear heavy breathing again.
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.
My kids always perceived the bathroom as a place where you wait it out until all the groceries are unloaded from the car.

Rest in Peace, dear Erma.

Apr 212016
 

Aging brings expected and sudden losses. I think it’s in the contract, and we can’t do anything about it. From early on, we know none of us is getting out of here alive.  And the longer we survive, the more reminders we get of how precarious and fragile our earthly bonds are.

We lose dear ones,  family and friends, acquaintances and co-workers, and beloved pets. With each birthday, our list of those losses grows exponentially. My father, at eighty-five, spends much time at wakes, memorial services, and funerals. Often, on our daily phone conversations, he’ll tell me about someone who has passed.

The irony of life with much love is the continued burden of much loss.

Here’s the thing: loss is difficult to write or talk about. Nothing is more personal. How one person deals with a tragedy may be completely different for another person in that same circumstance. Or what one calls a tragedy, another may see it differently. Our job is not to judge, but to provide comfort.

When my maternal grandmother died, I was devastated. Now, I know I was fortunate to know three of my four grandparents until adulthood. My maternal grandmother, though ill with dementia, held my child when he was an infant. When my grandmother Enz died, I was 37. My husband was 25 when he lost his father. I feel guilty about grieving my second-generation loss, but I know that a loss is a loss.

When I was younger, and someone I cared for had a loss or was in trouble, my immediate reaction was to swoop in and try to solve the problem. I now call this “The Big Gesture.”  Now, I’m aware of how little I can do. I’ve climbed onto the moving sidewalk of people who bring food and keep my mouth shut.

What people want are your arms around their shoulders, your touch, your tears, and your open ears to hear them. And not much else. Most individuals who love you will tell you what they need. You must respect their wishes, and understand what they are saying, with words and without. And, a Dutch apple pie can’t hurt.

Our family lost a friend this week. It will happen again. I hear the voice of God calling my name loud and clear. She is saying, “Amy, focus on what is important. Time is short.”

Though I love the sound of my voice, I’m ending this piece with today’s Facebook post from my cousin Bob Montgomery.  He is a wise man. God bless you, Bob.

I learned to smell Lilacs. Seems funny that I would have to “learn” how to smell them, but that is the best way to describe it. On April 21, 2003 (13 years ago today) I had quadruple bypass open heart surgery. I spent the next 10 days in the hospital dealing with complications. On the day I came home I remember the sun was shining and when I got out of the car I smelled a sweet, citrusy, almost like heaven scent. When I asked what the smell was I learned it was from the lilac bush in my own yard. It had been there for years, but until that day in 2003 I had not smelled it. The scent from the lilacs were such a contrast to the hospital smells; those sanitary smells of death and despair that I experienced over the previous 10 days. Maybe I had just always been in such a hurry that I never noticed the smells from nature around me. Maybe a lot of us get caught up in day-to-day issues so that we don’t notice the smell of heaven around us. If that is the case, then today is a good day to slow down and enjoy the beauty and smells around us. I think I will grab a cup of coffee and sit on the patio to smell the virburnum and be thankful. — Bob Montgomery, Plainfield, Indiana, April 21, 2016

 

 

Apr 162016
 

COFFEECUPApril 16, 2016 — My husband is the Love of My Life. But high on the list is coffee.

I love coffee. I love everything about coffee. I love the smell of coffee. I love the feel of coffee on my tongue. I love the sound our coffeemaker makes as the fresh brew gurgles through the filter. I love the sight of my familiar pink and green mug filled to the brim with the sublime medium-roast.  I love the taste of rich, full-bodied coffee, black with no irritating powders or creams.

Most important, I love the things that coffee does for me. Coffee helps me in ways I beyond my ability to spell them out. Here are a few: coffee gets me up and going.  Coffee kills the morning troll that’s been hiding under my side of the bed since I got up to use the bathroom at 2 a.m. The troll that wants to throw a rock at Wretched Morning Breath Spouse when he speaks nicely to the cat before the sun is up.  That troll that makes me swear every day that I’ll never watch “The Today Show” again if Matt and Savannah don’t stop being so effing chipper. The troll that makes me hate every other human being on the planet.  Dr. Phil (and what does he know?) says that the first 15 minutes in the morning are key to a couple’s long-term happiness.

Really?  Before I have my coffee, I would like to clean Dr. Phil’s molars with a rusty meat hook.

Coffee provides the routine I need in my life.  I’m not talking about connecting with my Android calendar.  If I drink my coffee, as  I normally do, between 8 and 8:30 .m., life is glorious and joyous at 9:30 a.m.  Butterflies, Unicorns and fairies appear, and life is good.

We don’t even want to think about what happens when The Editorial We doesn’t get coffee until, say, 10 a.m.  Bad, bad things happen. The earth stops revolving around the sun.

We’re ending a long week. I had four days of meetings either at 7:30 a.m. or 8 a.m.  I am not a morning person, despite my mother telling me every day of my childhood that I would magically turn into one someday.  Mom, you’ve been dead for four years.  I’m almost 59 years old.  Never going to happen.

We slept in late today, and I nearly killed the Love of My Life when he made goo-goo eyes at our ancient cat and asked him, “Are you my baby kitty?”

No, he is not your baby kitty. He is eighteen years old and just had diarrhea and threw up in my bathroom.

The cat would probably do a whole lot better if he just drank some coffee with his fish crunchies in the morning.

Crossposted at BlogHer.

 

Apr 092016
 

catfoodThis is my life now.  Never mind I have a busy full-time job, an active secondary writing career, a human family, and a home. Never mind all that.

The complete and entire focus of every free waking minute is caring for and feeding an 18-year-old blind, demented, toothless, deaf, arthritic feline.

About three months ago,  Fala was diagnosed with pancreatitis. And the vet recommended a switch to wet food.  That was a difficult change for the Gray Prince, who loves his “crunchy fish”  as we deem his Acana Pacifica food. Despite having only two teeth, he manages to crunch it from his little red cartoon mousie-covered bowl.

Our kitty sitter, Nan, suggested the Pacifica after she learned we were feeding him bowls of Friskies Original Party Mix.  Offering this high fat snack is the equivalent of feeding your two-year-old child Cheetos for three meals a day.  Salt and fat are yummy.  Are they good for old kitties?  That’s a resounding no.

Since the vet changed Fala to wet food, we’ve been feeding him Lil’ Friskies chicken with gravy (he favors chicken. In younger years, he stealthfully stole the chicken from a plate). He’s been licking the sauce off and leaving the rest.  This behavior cannot continue, or he’ll die. Last night I went on a buying spree at our local pet food store.  The clerk told me they have food for senior cats, but none of them work for a toothless old Tom. She suggested I check out the gourmet food, as well as the kitten chow. The clerk also instructed me to look for cans with the labels, “pate”, and “minced” and “kitten”.   I bought fourteen cans  (mostly gourmet labels, so my total was about $341.)

Sure, he’s worth it.  There’s constant midnight cater walling, hairballs on a newly washed bedspread,  puking on my rug daily, and his timely and odiferous evening constitutional 10 feet from us during “Wheel of Fortune”.  Who wouldn’t want to care for a kitty like this one?

There is this one tiny payoff. His Majesty cuddles  up between us each weeknight as we watch “Perry Mason.” And he purrs and acts as he likes us. A lot.

This morning the Potentate of Pussycats limped to the kitchen for breakfast, “Super Premium Fussy Cat Grain Free Chicken with Egg Formula in Gravy.”  Herman put out the food and immediately the Czar of Catdom started eating. We decided to leave him alone for the first course.  He acts an adolescent; any encouragement means he’ll eschew instead of chew.

His walk is so distinctive and lumbering that I heard him return to the kitchen thirty minutes later. And then a third trip. I grabbed my camera. He heard me.  I think he likes the new food, but God forbid his handlers observe him enjoying himself. Feeding the cat  He turned his back on me and walked away. We might be on to something.  So what if it is the most expensive cat food in the world?  Why else do I work?  I mean, seriously?  Taxes, bills, the occasional vacation?  None of that is as important as catering to the whim of a cat, who in human years, is 89 years old.

And the damn bowl still isn’t empty.

© Amy McVay Abbott, The Raven Lunatic, April 9, 2016

If you are interested in reading more about Fala Jo, buy his book.  You didn’t realize he was a famous feline, did you?  The Many Moods of Fala Jo by Herman and Bernadine Spitzsnogel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 282016
 

characterpic022

March 28, 2016 —  I mistakenly referred to a calculator as an adding machine at work.  Everyone burst into raucous laughter, followed by taunts about my age. Senior moment?  Or generic brain fart?”

Did I conjure up the image of Eustis, the bookkeeper from “It’s a Wonderful Life” from my co-workers?  I doubt that any Gen Xers or Millennials can identify Eustis.  And it’s a black and white film.  Younger people don’t like black and white movies.

Being one of the oldest at my workplace is new for me. I started full-time work in May 1980. This was before the Challenger blew up, before “Tear Down this Wall, Mr. Gorbachev,” before 9/11.  Before diagnostic related groups, Obamacare, electronic medical records, and lung transplants.  Probably before you were born, co-worker. Five years later, I started my first leadership level position in a hospital at age  28, which was (yes, indeedy, 30 years ago. People who have worked thirty plus years say “indeedy.”)   

In 1985,  I sat at the table with the big kids;  I was the only one in my twenties. My co-workers were, at least, fifteen years older than this brunette with long hair, high heels, and eyelids lined with powder blue shadow. We lived in an apartment; my husband was in graduate school.  Our second car was a ’73 VW Beetle.  Our “good car” was an unairconditioned Chevette. All of my leadership team co-workers had homes and sedans or SUVs and kids and mortgages. Grown-ups.

Until my present job,  I was among the youngest on my team. 

The man who hired me in February 2014 was seven or eight years younger; my current boss is somewhere in her early thirties.  My organization has about 120 employees.  I guess that less than ten outrank me in age.

At work, I’m frequently lost in the conversation. I don’t get my co-worker’s jokes, and they certainly don’t get my quips.  They talk about the eighties as ancient history. They see me as a child reading “McGuffey’s Reader” while a boy in overalls sticks my pigtails in an inkwell.  They don’t listen to NPR. They understand nothing of the classics.  

“Never at dusk.”  Steve Martin

“Dave’s not here.”  Cheech

“Nixon’s the One.”  The 1968 Republican National Committee, now known as conservative Democrats

No one at work understands my jokes, literary references, or anything I say.  I used the phrase “a pox on our house” the other day after a series of computer outages.    My colleagues thought I was babbling in gibberish.  

I referred to Mercutio’s triple epithet on the families of “Romeo and Juliet.”  A quick Google search revealed  Mercutio said “plague” a word which any hospital worker should know. One of the sources I used said “pox” was an archaic word not used today. Yes, indeedy.  My co-workers probably don’t believe it, but I wasn’t around in Shakespeare’s time.

(Time for a pop culture reference none of my colleagues will get. They often  call what I say “random.”  Perhaps it’s authentic frontier gibberish, as originated in a 1970s Mel Brooks flick. “I think we’re all grateful to Gabby Johnson, for clearly stating what needed to be said.”  It’s a double entendre.  You can’t get the pop culture reference from the 1970s without knowing who Gabby Hayes is from the thirties and forties. You know, like black and white?)

I don’t  see myself as old.  I don’t feel old. Isn’t sixty the new forty?  Three of my grandparents  looked ancient at sixty (one grandfather died in his early fifties.)  Maybe it was the hats?

A 2015 study surveyed attitudes about aging in Europe.

“Someone who is 60 years old today, I would argue, is middle-aged, but 200 years ago, a 60-year-old would be a very old person.

Dr. Sergei Scherbov, from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, led a joint project with New York’s Stony Brook University, looking at how life expectancy has increased.”

The study, published in the journal “PLOS ONE”, found people across Europe were currently viewwed as “old” when they hit 65.”

So what is Middle Age now?  Remember the old saying Life Begins at Forty?  If you married at 18 or 20 and started a family, you were footloose and fancy-free at forty.  
(Of course, most males had a job for life, and looked forward to a pension at 65, but that’s an entirely different story.)  

We are healthier,  working longer by choice or financial resources, and looking better than our parents or grandparents at the same age.  Perhaps it was the hats?

Or paraphrasing the fake Fernando Lamas said on vintage “Saturday Night Live,”We look mar-veahluss.”

Google it, kiddABACUSos.

Let my co-workers laugh.  They might learn something from me.  And I’ll take it in stride.  Tomorrow I’m taking in my son’s abacus to show them how we cave women used to count in the days before adding machines.  Believe me, I can give it out as well as I can take it. When I drove the company van the other day, I changed all ten pre-sets on the radio to NPR.  That’ll teach ’em.

 

Cross posted on BlogHer.

 

 

Also posted by Senior Wire News Service with some editing, May 2016

 

REFLECTIONS May 2016

The Raven Lunatic

Older than Dirt in My Workplace

By Amy Abbott

They see me as a child reading McGuffey’s Reader while a boy in overalls sticks my pigtails in an inkwell. They don’t listen to NPR. They understand nothing of the classics, and by classics, I mean everything from Steve Martin to Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire to Beethoven.

I mistakenly referred to a calculator as an adding machine at work where I’m administrative staff in a hospital. Everyone burst into raucous laughter, followed by taunts about my age. Senior moment?

Did I conjure up the image of Eustis, the bookkeeper from “It’s a Wonderful Life” from my co‑workers? I doubt any Gen Xers or Millennials can identify Eustis. Besides, it’s a black and white film. Younger people don’t like black and white movies.

Being one of the oldest at my workplace is new for me. I started full‑time work in May 1980. (Yes, indeedy, 36 years ago. People who have worked four decades say “indeedy.”)

I started before the Challenger blew up, before “Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev,” before 9/11. Before most of my co‑workers drew their first breath. Until my present job, I was among the youngest on my team.

At work, I’m frequently lost in the conversation. I don’t get my co‑worker’s jokes, and they certainly don’t get my quips. They talk about the 80s as ancient history. They see me as a child readingMcGuffey’s Reader while a boy in overalls sticks my pigtails in an inkwell. They don’t listen to NPR. They understand nothing of the classics, and by classics, I mean everything from Steve Martin to Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire to Beethoven.

No one understands my jokes, literary references, or anything I say. I used the phrase “a pox on our house” the other day after a series of computer outages.  My colleagues thought I was babbling in gibberish.

I referred to Mercutio’s epithet on the families of Romeo and Juliet. A quick Google search revealed Mercutio said “plague” a word which any hospital worker should know. One of the sources I used said “pox” was an archaic term not used today. Yes, indeedy. My co‑workers probably don’t believe it, but I wasn’t around in Shakespeare’s time.

(Time for a pop culture reference none of my colleagues will get. They often call what I say “random.” Perhaps it’s authentic frontier gibberish, as originated in a 1970s Mel Brooks flick “I think we’re all grateful to Gabby Johnson, for clearly stating what needed to be said.” It’s a double entendre. You can’t get the pop culture reference from the 1970s without knowing who Gabby Hayes is from the >30s and >40s. From black and white films, the ones the kids won’t watch?)

I don’t see myself as old. I don’t feel old. Isn’t 60 the new 40? Three of my grandparents looked ancient at 60 (one grandfather died in his early 50s.)

A 2015 study surveyed attitudes about aging in Europe. “Someone who is 60 years old today, I would argue, is middle‑aged, but 200 years ago, a 60‑year‑old would be a very old person.” Dr. Sergei Scherbov, from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, led a joint project with New York’s Stony Brook University, looking at how life expectancy has increased. The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found people across Europe were currently viewed as “old” when they hit 65.

So what is middle age now? Remember the old saying “life begins at 40”? If you married at 18 or 20 and started a family, you were footloose and fancy‑free at 40. (Of course, most males had a job for life, and looked forward to a pension at 65, but that’s an entirely different story.)

We are healthier, working longer by choice or financial resources, and looking better than our parents or grandparents at the same age.

Or paraphrasing Billy Crystal as Fernando Lamas said on vintage “Saturday Night Live,”  “We look mar‑veah-luss.”

Let my co‑workers laugh. They might learn something from me. And I’ll take it in stride.

Tomorrow I’m taking in my son’s abacus to show them how we cave women used to count in the days before adding machines.

Believe me, I can give it out as well as I can take it. When I drove the company van the other day, I changed all ten pre‑sets on the radio to NPR. That’ll teach ‘em.

 

 

 

Feb 032016
 

edbadge_FeaturedFebruary 11, 2016.  This post was selected as a Featured Member post at BlogHer.  

Earlier this week I took a Facebook quiz on IQ. My results were astounding. I scored higher than Nicholas Tesla, somewhere in the range of 170. I’m a teacher’s kid, and I was frequently tested as a child. I know that my IQ is nowhere near 170. I think the quiz was reporting my seventh-grade weight.

Now here’s the thing. The fact that I took this stupid quiz makes me think my IQ might be half to a third of what Tesla’s was. You would guess I would see the irony in this. Taking a Facebook quiz is like filling your car with gas, making sure the oil is full, and offering the keys to the guy who just robbed the bank. Sure, go ahead, take a good look at my personal information. Of course, I’m as smart as Tesla.

A November 2015 BBC article showcased the privacy nightmare behind these seemingly innocent issues. Remember the famous Facebook word cloud? Click on this app and words from your Facebook page show up in a cloud. I did it, of course. I was happy to see that “read” and “write” were large words. Perhaps “sucker” should have been a highlight. According to the article, the South Korean company Vonvon pilfered personal data, profile picture, age, sex, birthday, entire friend list, everything you have ever posted on your timeline, photos, hometown, education history and everything you’ve ever liked. Uh huh. And I signed up for this willingly, and I’ve done it before.

burgess meredithIt doesn’t seem hardly worth it. Tonight I took a “what celebrity most resembles you” quiz and I got “Burgess Meredith.” And not even The Penguin Burgess Meredith, no, I got the nerdy librarian from The Twilight Zone.

Yesterday it was “what state is from soul really from?” I got Massachusetts. Seriously, not my beloved home state of Indiana. Yes, I like it here and consider myself a real, true Hoosier. We have our bad points, but I moved away for six years and came back. There were reasons I came back. I also love my secondary home state of Florida where I lived for those six years and spent a lot of my childhood vacations. But, Massachusetts, no way. Sure I like to visit Boston and the Museum of Fine Arts. We’ve sat on the third base line facing the Green Monster at Fenway, and I love the Cape area. But, live there, part of my soul? No way. Can you say 100 plus inches of snow?

The horse, for my Facebook stuff, is most likely out of the barn. Save yourselves! The next time you are tempted by “Who is your evil twin?” run screaming from the room.

© Amy McVay Abbott 2016
Posted on BlogHer at Do you take Facebook quizzes?  You may want to rethink that….

 

 

Dec 212015
 

December 21, 2015 — At a crucial point in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey and Clarence Oddbody (the angel) review how life would mary-hatch-spinster-librarianhave been without Jimmy Stewart’s character.

  • Had George not saved his brother, Harry Bailey would not have saved the transport ship in World War
  • And Uncle Billy?  Seems without employment at the Bailey Savings and Loan he would reside in the Bedford Falls State Hospital.
  • Sweet Ma Bailey would become a surly boardinghouse owner.
  • Poor pharmacist Mr. Gower would accidentally poison someone.
  • And the slutty Violet Bix.  Can’t even talk about what happens to her in mixed company.

This isn’t all.  There’s something worse.  Something much worse.   Oh, the humanity.

George Bailey shakes the angel and says “Where’s Mary? I’ve got to see Mary.”

Clarence Oddbody says, “You won’t like it, George.”

At this point in our yearly watching, my family turns apoplectic and hysterical.

The angel tells George, “She closing up the library” and the camera switches to a scene of poor spinster Mary Hatch.

Frail, delicate Mary Hatch, afraid of her own shadow, donned in tiny wire-framed glasses, sensible shoes, severe hairdo. Indeed, she’s closing up the library.

Insert my family here, going bonkers. My husband is a research librarian at a local university. It has not been a fate worse than death, as the film implies.  Implies, no, insists!

Consider how “It’s a Wonderful Life” might have turned out differently if  Mary  became a librarian and  married George.

Seriously.  It’s not so bad.  Unlimited access to books and magazines and newspapers.  Wire-framed glasses are cool.  Didn’t John Lennon just rock them?  And the sensible shoes. Not a bad idea.  I spent my twenties running up and down marble hallways in Florida hospitals.  I’m paying the price now, literally, with pricy Clark’s and Walking Cradle shoes (oh, and so worth it.)  I cannot explain or defend the severe hairdo, but that’s personal preference.  Who am I to say, the owner of a perennial wedge three decades after Dorothy Hamill popularized it?

Those are the basics about her appearance.  Let’s get down to more important things, feminist things. Yes, it was the 1930s but if Mary had a regular paycheck from the library, the Baileys financial situation might be more stable.  Most libraries in that era were endowed by the Carnegie Foundation.  City government paid salaries.

Ma Bailey could babysit the kids while Mary is at work.  George could go to the library and get book on home repair and fix up that blasted old house.  With two incomes, maybe they wouldn’t have had to start married life in that leaky, rat trap.

Had George not felt so pressured, he might have taken the old suitcase out of the attic and taken Mary to Europe. Perhaps travel with their rich friends.  Hee haw.

Has a movie been made about what George and the family’s life would be like without Mary?   Beautiful Donna Reed  could have earned a university degree and become a faculty librarian at Bedford Falls State.  Then the kids would get free tuition.

Of course, that’s not Mr. Capra’s reality in this film.  George rushes to Mary’s side, and she is horrified and assumes his bad intentions.  George runs back across the bridge and realizes he did indeed “have a wonderful life.”  Most women did not get college degrees in those days.

It’s a great film, a classic story, and I love it just like everyone else does.

For a moment, however, imagine if the story were told in reverse. I’m going to go make a flaming rum punch and contemplate this development.