A Short Post

When this is published there will be 38 days until the first day of Autumn. Contrary to excessive advertising bombarding us with all things fall, and considering there are 3 months or approximately 90 days in each of the 4 seasons, I do not think that summer is almost over.

Need calendar proof? If you’d like to countdown with me, there’s a website for that. Check out https://yourcountdown.to/autumn-fall

Living in Florida, I know that summer is far from over, and that’s why something has gotten on my nerves lately.

No, it’s not the great sales on summer clothing and swimsuits. It’s not the heat either. I look at hot days as opportunities to go swimming or to the beach.

It’s a little bit of the back to school hype. Even thought it’s been a long time since I’ve sent kids off to school, I don’t like to be reminded that summer is coming to a close – BECAUSE IT’S NOT! Even when we lived up north, summer was allowed to be in charge until after Labor Day. Autumn had to fall (so to speak) in behind it.

But that’s not the thing that has my dander up today. It’s shorts.

I’m right in there with all you people who like to make fun of pairs of shorts and pairs of pants when you’re talking about a single piece of clothing. It’s all clean fun. And it has been explained why those articles of clothing are referred to in the plural when they are singular in function. That’s fine.

I was in my beloved Costco a few days ago checking out the clothes, when I noticed they did not have any shorts. They had short(s). I don’t even know how to write this, because if I say they had shorts you will fail to understand fully this weird occurrence. Here’s a picture, that should explain it to you.

Shocking! Isn’t it?

I immediately searched the women’s and men’s tables for the historically correct and accepted word “shorts.” I came up short.

My next task was to ask Merriam-Webster. There is no shortage of definitions for the word “short.” A long way down in his definitions it is stated that shorts are knee-length or less trousers – usually in plural. Short drawers.

Whew, I felt better. Until…

 

Yep. All the tags come up short. I mean they are selling short, which of course means we are now dealing with the stock market and I’ll have to ask my financial advisor son to give me a short explanation of this.

I’m going to end this now just in case your attention span is short.

 

You Otter Read This

Once again, I am providing a view of the other side of Central Florida. It’s not all the happiest place on earth down here. I’m not talking about Costco, one of my happy places on earth. I’ve never felt the danger of being attacked by an angry otter at Costco. I can’t say as much about Lake Lily in nearby Maitland.

Central Florida wildlife

It has been nearly a year since an ornery otter has made the headlines here. It was in March of last year that an aggressive otter jumped into a kayak in Manatee County and leaped onto its unsuspecting paddlers resulting in an overturned kayak and one terrifying and terrific story for the pair trying to take a leisurely trip down the river. He went on to attack other boaters and injure four people.

Daily I-4 Warnings

Daily I-4 Warnings are necessary during the I-4 Ultimate Project

I don’t know how that story was resolved regarding the capture of the wanted otter, but now I fear that he may have made his way to our fair community, though that would be unlikely because the most direct route from Manatee County, which is south of the Tampa/St. Pete area, to the Orlando area is via I-4. I-4 is deadlier than an angry otter and you would be smart to avoid it while in our area. An otter, angry or otherwise, can weigh between 10 and 33 pounds. You’d fare better with it then you would with an 18-wheeler trying to figure out where the lanes have shifted on I-4. The truck could weigh up to 40 tons. I think if given the choice, I’ll take my chances with the otter.

Seriously, though, whether on the interstate or near our beautiful lakes, I’m cautious. Lovely Lake Lily in the nearby town of Maitland is a favorite place for locals to take a stroll. I myself have walked there. I might have considered doing it again, that is until otters began stalking innocent walkers. At this point, they are only concerned about one otter. They are working on a Single-Otter Theory. I think this is their way of avoiding conspiracies of groups of otters banding together with a common cause of destroying our state or making a statement about our inconsistencies in counting votes down here in Florida.

All this begs a question. These are river otters and Lake Lily is, well, a lake. I think that the otters are confused, like the vote counters in Broward County last year. Perhaps they thought their votes were not counted in the last election.

Another question: Are the sightings and incidents involving the dangerous otter at Lake Lily really the work of a renegade weasel (otters are in the weasel family) or maybe even the Russians?

For now, we will have to hope that it was a Lone Otter. The latest word is the Otter Wanted-Posters have been successful. The squirrelly otter is off the streets, lakes, rivers, and swamps. I guess I’ll have to come up with a better reason to avoid taking a walk.

 

Things You’ll Never Hear Me Say

I kind of talk a lot. I admit it. I have opinions. If you’re around me, you just might hear them. I have things I am passionate about. You’d probably hear about those, too. But there are some things you’ll never hear me say, words I’ll never use even to make a point.

  1. Never and always. I’m always careful never to use those words; they get you in trouble.
  2. Tonight I’m cooking a new recipe with 15 ingredients. (There are easily three things wrong with this statement.)
  3. I’d rather not go out to dinner.
  4. I’ll skip my coffee this morning.
  5. There’s no room for my grandchildren to come stay.
  6. I’m canceling my Costco membership.
  7. The word “at” at the end of a question. (Where are you at?) I practically break out in a sweat when I hear this.
  8. We’re getting a pet. (This is outlawed according to Bob’s and my No More Pet Pact of 2011.)
  9. I can’t wait to go camping.
  10. These political ads have totally influenced my voting decision.

How about you? Is there anything you would never say?

Life Has Its Ups and Downs

One minute I’m up and the next minute I’m down. That’s life in the Costco aisle. I can’t tell you how excited I was when Costco surprised me with Charmin toilet paper with scalloped perforations between the sheets. It was a stroke of brilliance that brought about this long-needed update to a very mundane (yet essential) product. Not since we were told “not to squeeze the Charmin” have I been so excited to sit next to this Grade A paper. Mr. Whipple would be proud. But he probably would be OCD about that, too. I can just hear him say, “Don’t rip between the perforations!”

This does solve a lot of problems. For years when our grandchildren were over we would go through toilet paper at a rate of about 1.5 rolls per day. We helped them learn to count with toilet paper, for goodness’ sakes. Now, though, it will be all the easier for them to count and tear. Genius! Plus, no more having to make that cute little triangle on the end of the roll to make it extra fancy. Perforations – that’s what it’s all about.

But then Costco threw me for a loop. They changed out my favorite yogurt. Dannon Activia has always come in three flavors – peach, strawberry, and blueberry. Always. But not yesterday. They claim to have updated the flavors and blueberry got the axe. I made an audible gasp when I saw the box promoting black cherry. I practically climbed into the refrigerator in search of any blueberry hidden back there. Alas, I am forced to try something new. Bob says it’s good for me and reminds me that I love cherries. I know what you’re thinking – how can he really not know me after all of these years!

Oh, blueberry! We had a good run!

This is my last blueberry yogurt. I will savor it and bid it farewell. I am reminded that you can purchase this at the grocery store, but that’s not how I roll. Oh, Costco! You drive me crazy sometimes, but this blueberry debacle will not be the end of our relationship. I forgive you.

Furthermore, I will not concentrate on the negative. Who knows – maybe I’ll love black cherry yogurt. Either way, whenever I visit the bathroom (which really goes hand-in-hand with Activia yogurt), I have a pleasant roll of perforated tissues there waiting to cheer me up.

 

How to Avoid Cooking

4 and 20 Blackbirds minus 20 eating leftover pie

It’s been almost two weeks and we have finally made our way through the Thanksgiving leftovers. That means I had to generate more leftovers by cooking. This is not my favorite thing to do. I rank my love of cooking on a 1 to 10 scale, and that can change daily or even within any given day. One means I won’t even entertain the idea of cooking, or entertaining for that matter as they kind of go hand-in-hand. I’ll have to let you know what 10 means if I ever generate that high a score. It is highly doubtful that will happen, but hope springs eternal like eyes on an old potato, which I would know because I just cleaned out my refrigerator.

Here are the reasons why I don’t cook much, feel free to put them into practice in your own life:

  1. I’m lazy – I thought I’d get that one out of the way.
  2. I’m not particularly creative in the kitchen.
  3. Costco – Need I say more? Chicken potpie, stuffed peppers, and the famous $4.99 rotisserie chicken are just three of the Costco reasons.
  4. Enchilada night at Amigos in Altamonte Springs. On Thursday night you can get an enchilada platter for $5.88, and that includes all the chips and salsa that I can fit into my purse. Essentially, that is two meals for $5.88.
  5. The Orlando Magic get a win at home. This means Papa Johns offers half price on your entire on-line order. Granted, we have not been able to take advantage of this much lately.
  6. My husband Bob is a great cook and likes creating new dishes. I can’t wait until he retires.
  7. I’d rather be writing.
  8. I have cooked enough. I multiplied the number of years I’ve been married (42) x 365 days and then assumed (conservatively) that a meal was cooked by me 70 percent of the time. That is 10,731 meals.
  9. I like to take naps after doing complex mathematical problems like the one above. Of course, that just got me off the hook for tonight.
  10. Leftovers – Whenever I do cook, I make enough for a family of six. I can’t figure out how to cook for a number smaller than that, but it means, like the meal or not, I don’t have to cook the next night.

Since my cooking is becoming rarer and rarer (amount of times I cook, not the temperature of meat), I now award myself bonus points for any night that I do cook. I told Bob that I can redeem these for a night out to dinner. He gave me one of his famous eye-rolls. I’d keep on writing, but I just realized it’s past time to heat the leftovers for dinner. Looks like no bonus point for me tonight.

Maybe We Should Leave the Scientific Method to the Scientists

I witnessed two ladies applying the scientific method the other day. It was fascinating to observe their dedication to discovery and the acquisition of knowledge, even if it might come at their own peril.

It happened at Costco, which is where so much of my writing inspiration has its source. From the moment I drive onto the parking lot and circle, circle, circle to find a parking spot, there is magic and anticipation in the air. This time it began as I exited my car and observed the aforementioned ladies just as they had finished loading their car with the treasures that embody a Costco shopping trip.

Their car was similar to mine, a small-to-mid-size SUV, and it was obviously loaded with the same feature that mine has which allows you to kick your foot under the rear bumper (if you have the key fob on you) and release the hatch to open without the use of your hands. I might add that this is a perfect feature for the regular Costco shopper.

When I say “obviously,” I mean that one of the women was halfway inside of the back of the car while the other woman was kicking her foot under the bumper to see how the stop-and-reverse safety feature worked. I’m sure that this was an experiment and nothing malicious, because there was friendly banter being exchanged the entire time.

Down went the hatch, and then up went the hatch when it hit the woman leaning into the car. She repositioned herself and they tried it again – I guess to see if the intensity of the hatch hitting the woman would change or if in fact she would be squished by the gate, thereby adding the possibility of a law suit, which they would surely win and, therefore, be able to buy more stuff at Costco.

This was so surprising and entertaining to me that I didn’t think to pull out my phone and video them, which would clearly have helped with any impending lawsuits. I just stood there and stared and laughed.

I also engaged them in conversation because I have some knowledge of how it feels to have your hatch hit you when you accidentally put your foot too far under the bumper while loading the back of the car. A summary of the outcome of that event from my firsthand experience is: pain and embarrassment.

In my case, I was putting things in the back of the car and turned to get more from my cart when I was interrupted by the hatch smacking me on the head. I shared this with them with a certain amount of caution, because I was honestly afraid that they might try that one, too. They didn’t, but they did return to their original application of the scientific method. Their systematic observation and testing was truly inspiring. After I thought about it, though, I did wonder if they had already done the experiment where the hatch hits them in the head. That would explain a lot.

Leftover Pi

I was lamenting not having something sweet to serve to my family who was coming into town. It seemed wrong. I guess that’s how I was raised, and I also guess that explains why I have been on a diet for the last 45 years.

I had other food to offer them, but I couldn’t get rid of that nagging feeling that I was failing at my hostess duties. I almost had myself talked into being okay with it, and then I made a critical mistake. While I was out running a quick errand, I called Bob (my husband).

Bob: You know, it’s pi day.

Me: You just want pie.

Bob: I do like pie. You could swing by Costco and buy one. Easy.

Me (as I turn the car towards Costco): I’ve been doing so well without eating sweets, I don’t want to buy a huge pie. Not to mention the fact that I just made a birthday cake for my mom for tomorrow and I plan on having a piece.

Bob: Do whatever you want. We don’t need pie.

I tell myself that I’m not going to do it. I’ll just fill up my tank. No need to go inside. I lie a lot.

Inside they are sampling apple pie. Arg! I look at it and decide to be mad at Bob. I buy the pie.

Before our company arrives, I check in with Bob to tell him that he is a terrible influence on me, I mean to tell him that I bought a pie. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, honey. Just thought I’d check in. Do you have a minute to talk?

Bob: No, not really. The entire staff is heading to the break room for pie, you know, since it’s Pi Day. I don’t want to miss out.

Me: What! You knew you were having pie at work and yet you managed to get me to buy pie! Stupid Pi Day. I hate math!

Later that night…

During dinner, my cousin tells me that he is now borderline diabetic, so he passes on the bread that I fixed, which I don’t usually fix but did because we have company and you must have bread. And, of course, he turns down the pie as well.

Oh, the irony! All this to say, you really don’t have to have dessert just because you are having company. And, you really don’t have to have bread either, but you do have to have wine. That helps you not to be angry at your husband or yourself when you and he are the only ones eating pie that you didn’t really want to have in the first place.

What are we going to do with all of this leftover pie?

 

Say Cheese! (the story of an immigrant and fellow cheese shopper)

Almost every time I go to Costco I see someone I know.  That’s what happens when you live in one area for forty years.  But today, instead of seeing an old friend, I made a new one.

Part of the fun at Costco is listening to and watching people.  Every trip affords an opportunity for conversation.  Today was an exceptional day in that arena.

We met in the cheese aisle while lamenting the expiration dates on the fresh tubs of mozzarella.  Soon an alert employee asked if she could help us.  As she went to check on the supply, we started chatting – me in my plain old American English and him with a charming old world accent that I could not quite place.

Bulgaria.  He was from Bulgaria.  He was a long way from the food lines of the late 1990s that were the norm at that time in his home country.  In less than twenty years he had gone from those lines and barely being able to feed his family, to Costco lines of carts overflowing with bulk purchases and fresh produce.  And cheese.

He risked it all to come to America so he could feed his daughters.  In those days the food lines started early in the morning, before dawn.  He would get in line and wait for hours.  There was not enough food to buy.  That is a concept that I cannot even imagine as I look at the aisles stacked with more kinds of food than I can count, not to mention my own grocery cart full of steaks, spinach, tomatoes, and cheese.

He was a printer and worked in the newspaper business.  One day while reading the paper he saw a small rectangular ad with details of a way to go to America – a lottery.  He secretly applied – too nervous to tell even his wife.  For some reason he was confident that his name would be picked but still kept his action to himself.  And then he waited.  Six months later a letter came.  He was chosen.

I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when he told his wife the news.  He told me there was a skirmish between them over it – mostly over him keeping it from her.  His intentions were good – he didn’t want their everyday life to be overshadowed by a mere possibility.  Even when it was time to go, they waited until the last days to tell family and friends.  Some things are difficult to share with those you do life with every day.  How does a person find the words to tell loved ones they are going to find a new life in another country?  Words.  Words can cut like a knife and soothe like a balm.  They can elicit tears of hope and gratitude.  They are part of happy hellos and heartbreaking goodbyes.

So I never know what I’m going to bring home from Costco.  This time it was a lot more than a rotisserie chicken.  This time it was a story that made me proud of this man for pursuing a new life to care for his family and proud of my country for welcoming him in.

Author’s Note: This story actually took place a year ago. I submitted it to The Costco Connection; but since I haven’t heard from them, I wanted to share it with you. This gentleman is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. It occurs to me that in this day of tension about immigration, maybe this is timely. There is a path to immigration that welcomes people to our country. I don’t fully understand how it works, but I am grateful for it. It was a process for this man that involved waiting. I’m glad he did.

Beyond the Samples at Costco

I think Sesame Street had the right idea about the people that you meet in your neighborhood. You know, the people that you meet as you’re walking down the street each day? That applies to Costco, too (my other neighborhood).

Let me back up a little. Whenever my dad leaves the house, he is wearing his WWII B29 crew veteran hat. Over the years of going places with him, I’ve grown accustomed to people stopping and thanking him for his service. I’ve seen people engage in long conversations with him, shake his hand, and buy him lunch. It always means so much to him for someone to take the time to show appreciation.

Now it’s hard for me to walk past a veteran without stopping and thanking them for their service – especially a WWII vet. They are easy to spot because the pride they take in their service and their country is so often displayed via their hats.

During my last trip to Costco I met a gentleman who is a WWII vet. His name is Mike Morro. I stopped to thank him for his service and we ended up having a wonderful conversation. He served in the Pacific like my dad did, and then he re-enlisted in the 1970s as a doctor in the navy. This delightful gentleman will turn 90 this summer; and he is still politically active, cares for his country and is a responsible citizen.

img_1555I was impressed that not only did he carry a picture of himself in uniform, but he carries one of his father who served in WWI. There is a lot of history in that wallet!

He pulled out a couple of other pictures and before showing them to me said, “Now, I’m not sure which way you voted in the election, but look at this.”

There he was in a photo with Mike Pence and holding his Veterans for Trump sign. You have to respect an 89-year-old man who is so articulate and active, not to mention polite, respectful, and down-right friendly. It’s easy to see why that generation is called the greatest.

Thank you, Mr. Morro, for your service to our country, and thank you for taking a few minutes to talk beyond the sample line at Costco. It was such a pleasure to meet you!

fullsizerender

Mike Morro and I at Costco (I have to remember to wear make-up when I leave the house. You never know who you’ll run into!)

 

Thank you, God, for Red Lights

I was heading to my son’s house to stay with my grandsons for a few days.  It had been a busy morning and I left my home an hour later than I had planned.  I needed to be there by 2:30 to receive the boys from the school bus, and I had to stop at Costco for gas.  It was 2:05 when I finished filling up.  There was plenty of time, except I needed four things from inside the store – four things that were just steps away.  If I could be in and out in 10 minutes, I would just make it in time to get the boys.  Of course, getting in and out of Costco in ten minutes would be a major miracle.  I was up for a miracle.

I was back in the car at 2:18; that was thirteen minutes, which was a major accomplishment for me but only a minor miracle.  As I drove down SR436 I prayed that I would get to their home before they would.  I knew it was tight.  I felt like God was saying, “Trust me.  Be at peace.”

That meant that I didn’t need to give in to anxiety and wouldn’t need to go 80 mph when I got on I-4.  I was at peace.  (The thought of a delay due to getting pulled over by the police occasionally crept into my mind.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.)

file4281249501933 (1)I met one green light after another.  I thanked God for the green lights.  I knew he was using them to get me there on time.  Then I came to a red light.  I thought about the boys.  God gave me peace.  He didn’t say I would get every light green.  He only told me to trust him.  That meant that even if they had to wait for me, he was caring for them.  So, I thanked God for the red light.  After all, he was in charge of that, too.

I pulled into their neighborhood and had to go through the security gate, where three trucks were lined in front of me.  I sat there waiting as a school bus rolled by me.  One of the trucks went through and another school bus passed.

Finally I got through the gate, it felt like it took forever, but it was only about four minutes.  I turned onto their street and there were the boys – one house away from their home.  I would have beaten them home if they hadn’t broken into a run when they saw me.  I am amazed at how God cares for his children.  He gave me just the right amount of green and red lights to get me there in a timely manner, but most of all he gave me peace that I could trust him with every detail.  I just love that.