Jan 312019
 

We are on the south end of the Polar Vortex, and our lowest temperature yesterday was just above zero, with the “real feel” wind chill temperature around minus sixteen. To ice that cake, we got a few inches of snow early Wednesday morning.

My husband works as a research librarian at a small liberal arts university, which closed yesterday because of the extreme cold. The last time the campus closed, I’m fairly certain, was for the 1937 Flood of the Ohio River. The general modus operandi is to cancel classes and expect everyone else to report. (On a snow day, you could throw a rock from one end of the library to the other and not hit a student. During your college years if you learned of a snow day, was your first thought, “Great! I can go to the library!”)

Kids with Dad, 1963.

On a normal day, the happiest time of my day is when my husband comes home from work at 6 p.m. The second happiest time of day is when he leaves for his part-time gig at noon. I love him, I love drinking coffee with him in the morning, but then I want him to leave.

We both like our alone time, like boxers to their corner, in the afternoons. He went to the basement where his antiques business is based, and I move to my office to read, write, talk on the phone, and watch the birds on our deck.

I also caught up with family and friends in Chicago and Rockford, Illinois, our son on the East Coast, and a cousin in Virginia. I enjoyed reading tales on social media of dog owners taking their furry friends outside. In the morning I noted great enthusiasm, friends covered from stem to stern in warm clothing. By afternoon, most were opening the door and tossing the dog out for his potty. My doggie great-nephew Kai didn’t want to set his paws down in front of his Lincoln Park home, so my nephew carried the above 70-lb. Golden. (One reason why I am a cat person.)

We had no mail delivery but UPS drove up to our door with two large packages about 4 p.m. One contained a cooler with our Super Bowl pizzas for Super Bowl Sunday. (We never eat pizza, except for Super Bowl Sunday, and you might as well go big or stay home.) Two frozen Lou Malnati deep dish pizzas came in a cooler, on dry ice. Our family loves Chicago-style deep dish pizza, or what my son’s East Coast friends call “casseroles.” (Not sure what to call that greasy cracker they eat in NYC.)

I opened the cooler and took out the two pizzas and put them in our freezer. Then, I pulled out the dry ice bag under the pizza. It was open and I accidentally touched the dry ice with my wedding ring finger, which immediately began to tingle and turn blue. My husband advised me to put it under hot water, and while it still tingles a little, all is fine. I cannot imagine having to go to the ER, where dozens of people have real frostbite emergencies, and asked for treatment. This could have been possibly the dumbest way in history to contract frostbite, if it had been worse.

Today all is back to a normal January day, with a heat wave of 27 degrees above zero expected.

Jan 242019
 

My son works for a non-profit in Washington, D.C. Thankfully, his employment is not threatened by the now month-long government shutdown. I innocently asked him (rural dweller that I am) if he enjoyed a more leisurely Metro trip into work from his Silver Spring home. He reminded me that Metro depends on rider revenue. He said that trains have fewer cars, which makes the riders just as crowded during rush hour. On off-peak times, he said, trains are hit and miss.

I use this anecdote as a silly example, an example of my naivete about the shutdown. There may be a lot of naivete around, and I’m not just talking about the tone-deaf Wilbur Ross who told CNBC he is puzzled by reports of federal workers turning to food banks and other forms of relief, suggesting they should be able to obtain bridge loans to tide them over until the government reopens.

No, the naivete I’m talking about is how we fail to realize the larger impact of the shutdown on our country. The press keeps reporting on the 800,000 federal workers without a paycheck. What about federal contractors? Vox reported there are about half a million federal contractors who work for multiple federal government agencies, many in low-wage jobs. Workers furloughed, regardless of federal or contract status, may be the heads of household and responsible for other people. They may have child support or help aging relatives. Student loans? Daycare? Medications?

Each worker’s family has an economic impact within their community, affecting businesses, large and small. If they aren’t working, they aren’t buying gas or getting the oil changed in their car. They likely aren’t paying child care, and in the competitive daycare world, their child may lose his spot. If they rent, missing a payment may cause their landlord problems with finances on his end. Like skipping a stone across a still pond, this problem ripples across our communities affecting everyone.

The media reports the larger problems. The reports are more dire with each passing day. As I write this, the crawl (photo below) on CNN says Bank of America CEO Warns of Long-Term Damage to U.S. Economy Due to Trade & Shutdown Uncertainty.

And if are horrified by the one, take a gander at any of these.

Tax funds may be delayed as Hundreds of IRS workers skip work over shutdown. But you get to keep paying your taxes!

Impact of shutdown on research funding. Government-funded research from healthcare to energy and weather impacts all American citizens. And heads up, wash the sheets in the guest room, your daughter who is a researcher in graduate school may need your basement.

Maybe we don’t need the PandaCam but the Violence Against Woman Act, which expired in December, provides needed services for women and children at risk. And federal highways aren’t being repaired; federal parks are overrun with litter. Did I mention the Coast Guard and border agents? And the court system? What federal agencies are responsible for the migrant children we are holding?

In our nomadic society, people fly for work and pleasure, about 1.73 million people per day (this is not new data, because the Department of Transportation is shutdown.) I have at least three family members, that I know of, flying this week. This headline from Time yesterday will make your head snap: ‘We Cannot Even Calculate the Level of Risk.’ Air Traffic Controllers Issue Dire Warnings About Air Safety During the Shutdown.”

Time noted, “Air traffic controllers, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents, transportation security and law enforcement officers, safety inspectors, air marshals and FBI agents have all been caught up in the shutdown, leaving airports understaffed and raising questions about the current safety of the nation’s aviation system, according to the joint statement from National Air Traffic Controllers Association President Paul Rinaldi, Air Line Pilots Association President Joe DePete and Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sara Nelson. UPDATE January 25, 2019. As of this morning, three airports are on ground stops due to inadequate staffing, Newark, Philadelphia, and LaGuardia (New York).

Do I have your attention yet? If you have a bomb shelter in your backyard leftover from the Cold War, perhaps now is the time to head out. All of this is unsettling and scary, regardless of where we sit in life. What can we mere mortals do?

Yesterday I read an excellent commentary in Sojourners by Adam Taylor, who is the editor. I know American Christianity hasn’t won any popularity contests recently, but before you run screaming from the room, I challenge you to read his article here. Whether you regard Jesus as your Savior or a prophet, let’s think about his example. The most obvious call to action for people of faith is prayer. That not your bag? The article suggests you call, write, visit those folks who represent you in Congress. Here’s the link to find your person in the House. And yes, here’s the handy-dandy link to find your Senators.

Many non-faith organizations have stepped up from retail chains to famous chefs. Most communities have non-profits dedicated to food and housing security.

The real crux of Taylor’s article is that we as Americans have a long history of rising to a challenge. Remembering the Serenity Prayer, what we can control is helping our neighbors in need. This is and has always been, the crux of the American story. I’m not ready to give up on us yet.

Disclaimer: This article is not about the politics that got us here. I have an immense anger about what I see as the problem. This essay is not about that. Please let your comments reflect what I have written.

Jan 212019
 


I did not start drinking coffee until I went into direct sales. I had no idea what I was missing. Both my husband’s family and my family were religious about their coffee. I was embarrassed once when my brother-in-law came to our house after visiting my husband in the hospital, and We. Had. No. Coffee. Nothing, not even a Sanka envelope. But, as I mentioned, in our forties, The Husband and I both got religion.

Now, we both depend on java in the morning, and sometimes even a second. Before I retired, I ran through a drive-thru (location depending on traffic but could be FourBux, Donut Bank, or McD’s.) Now, the joy of having a cuppa at home, slowly, while watching the CBS Morning News is sublime.

I am inflexible on the subject of mugs. I drink coffee in a mug. Cups are for tea. I discern a difference. I also want a substantial handle on my mug. I also prefer to drink from a mug that is younger than my adult child, who will be 29 this spring. My husband, on the other hand, treasures mugs with which he has an emotional relationship, like the free Cameron Springs Water mug he adores. I got the mug free at a health fair in the 1990s. I think the company has long been out of business or was purchased.

I recently bought four new mugs (two of which are pictured above) which led to my insistence that we rid ourselves of four. Our cupboard space is limited. We have enough mugs for the von Trapp children and most of the Osmonds and their children and grandchildren to join us for morning coffee, with everyone having a mug.

Out went the free radio station mug with the logo worn off that I got in 1980. Out went three matching mugs with tiny handles. (By out, I mean given to Goodwill for any tiny-handed politicians who need them.) I’m expecting a mug with El Greco’s Toledo on it as well as another with Snoopy, the literary ace, typing on his doghouse. Incremental change, that’s my motto.

Shocked and Shaken Prince Philip

Shocked and Shaken Prince Philip

Ninety-seven-year-old Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, flipped his Land Rover on one of the family estates earlier this week. Reports say he was uninjured, but two women in a Kia sustained minor injuries. While no fault was cited in reports, MSN notes “Witnesses told the BBC Philip appeared’very shocked’ and shaken after […]

Goodbye, Landline

Goodbye, Landline

For the past year more than half of our calls have been spam — telemarketing calls, health insurance, the service desk for a computer I don’t own, and the like. Most of the time I don’t answer the ringing phone, something as a child I could not fathom. We are contemplating getting rid of our […]

September

The hummingbird feeder hangs empty next to feeders full of safflower seeds. In summer, the tiny birds fed for their long trek south. Now, the hummingbirds are gone. Wiry finches bounce back and forth between three feeders. Birds coast from the outstretched arms of the trees, gliding smoothly for their respite. Bluebirds attend to mealtime […]

The Treasures Within

The Treasures Within

July 22, 2018 — Several years ago my father paid to have all of his color slides put on disk for us.  He had taken more than 500 slides between 1955 and 1969.  I’m not sure why he stopped, except that my brother and I both had Brownie cameras by then and I suspect he […]

Father's Day Tribute 2018

Father’s Day Tribute 2018

Published in the Sunday Evansville Courier & Press – Father’s Day 2010 — On the day I was born my father bought a new ’57 pink Chevy. I want to believe the color was in honor of his first girl-baby; frankly, it probably wasn’t. My father—now almost 80—is a pragmatist and most likely bought what […]

I Have This Bridge for Sale, and It’s in Brooklyn

May 5, 2018  An original piece published on Humor Outcasts by Amy Abbott People often ask me how I spend my time now that I no longer fly on the corporate trapeze. As a dinosaur with a landline, I gab with Rachel from Card Services and “Brian” who wants to help me with my Microsoft […]

Opening Day

Opening Day

March 28, 2018 — With the annual ritual of baseball’s opening day, hope does indeed spring eternal in the human breast, to quote the poet. New fields of dreams form during spring training in Florida and Arizona where Snowbirds pray an errant ball doesn’t break the windshield of their rented van. I appreciate the anticipation […]

Filthy Pillows

Filthy Pillows

February 16, 2018 — I do stupid things.  I’ve contemplated the reasons and developed a list: Russians disguised as people from Ohio or West Virginia made me Senior Moment Hyperspeed Alien Abduction and Return Genetics Candy Crush Dependency Several days ago I realized I needed new pillows.  I like my pillows arranged just so. When […]

Descaling the Coffemaker and Other Duties as Assigned

Descaling the Coffemaker and Other Duties as Assigned

This piece was published on the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Website on February 11, 2018 The retired life is resplendent with richness and meaning. It does not, however, free one from the tasks of ordinary life. I often must rise from my red velour chaise lounge, set the peppermint bonbons and glass of sherry aside, and […]

Battle at Squirrel Vista

Battle at Squirrel Vista

January 21, 2018 The battle continues. Each side remains vigilant, fighting with weapons, creative and traditional. My objective in this daily skirmish is feeding the birds. I lack proper tactics because I don’t fully understand the enemy. I am not sure of his motives or his strategy. He frequently changes his patterns of attack.  The birds […]

The Glint in His Eye

The Glint in His Eye

January 17, 2018 When I was in my twenties, I visited my great aunt Zoe Trucia Evans at her Denver home. Aunt Zoe, my grandmother’s sister, and lifelong nemesis moved to Colorado from Indiana in the 1930s. Zoe’s husband Everett had a respiratory condition and needed the Colorado climate. Throughout their lives, the sisters quibbled […]

Bitter Cold

Bitter Cold

January 15, 2018 Do you remember the metal ice trays your parent kept in their freezer?  Do you remember the sticky touch of the metal against your skin when you pulled the lever to open the tray?That feeling of metal against skin describes precisely how our last week of cold weather feels to me. Any […]

Winter Nights in the Recliners

Winter Nights in the Recliners

January 3, 2018 — My retirement vision hasn’t quite met reality yet. In my apparition, I’m reading a leather-bound volume of “War and Peace.” I’m writing handwritten epistles to friends with a crystal nib and brown ink from Siena, Italy.  I’m taking long baths, getting frequent facials, and walking briskly in the mall at 8:30 a.m. […]

My Constipated Cat

My Constipated Cat

Written January 2016, published January 2, 2018 — I am buying Metamucil for our cat as instructed by our veterinarian. Fala, our aging Tom, has gastrointestinal distress. I’m hiding behind the magazines in the drugstore line, like the pimply-faced teenage hero of “Summer of 42.” I’m stacking random items, a greeting card, razors, gum, and toothpaste, […]

The Struggle to Assemble a New Vacuum

The Struggle to Assemble a New Vacuum

December 23, 2017 Our housekeeper, who is 82 and has been with our family for 25 years, is here today (Friday). We’re both pretty afraid of her (and you would be, too). We love her to pieces, but she has strong opinions that we consider, or she will not be happy. We want her to […]

Rejected Holiday Television Specials

December 13, 2017,  — Twice ousted Judge Roy Moore’s Sweet Home Alabama Christmas Special, featuring the Young Girl’s Chorale of Opp, Alabama sings “Carol of the Children.” Also starring the grown-up Cosby Kids, dancing with life-sized, animated Jello pudding pops. The Ancestry.com Holiday Program showcases a family uncovering why cousin Eddie doesn’t look like Grandpa […]

Memories of W and Ds

Memories of W and Ds

There was only one real Santa Claus.  He used the pseudonym Phil Steigerwald, but we all knew he was the only Kris Kringle.  He had the roundest, kindest face you’ve ever seen, and welcomed you to his red-covered chair in the middle of Wolf and Dessauer’s Department Store in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His beard was […]