Sunday, February 19, 2017

Amos Went To The Big House

As previously mentioned in this blog, my great-grandfather, William Amos Troutman (aka Ricker) was a bit of a hoodlum.  He was arrested at least once that I know of, which most likely doesn't constitute his entire criminal career.  There were probably other crimes he committed where he was either caught or caught and released.

Amos is listed among the population records of Western State Penitentiary.  This prison, nicknamed "Western Pen" was built in 1882 along the banks of the Ohio River in Pittsburgh.  As Amos' family lived southeast of Pittsburgh, Amos literally went "up the river" to prison on October 2, 1897.  The distance from Somerset to Pittsburgh is about 70 miles, but to his family at the time, Amos must have seemed far, far away.

He served 1 year and 6 months for his role in stealing $1,300 from Phineas Werner, a Greenville township farmer.  His partners in crime were his younger half-brother, Harvey Deal, who was sentenced to the Huntington Reformatory because of his age, and Charles Bloom, an experienced convict who apparently talked the two younger men into joining him in the robbery and then split the money with his accomplices, keeping most of it for himself since neither Amos nor Harvey could count money.

My hope is that the one stint in the brink was enough for Amos.  There's no other prison record in western Pennsylvania for him following this time, and not certain if he served the entire time or was let out early.  But hopefully it set him straight and he moved on.

But aside from all that, is the information provided by the prison record.  It lists a complete physical description of Amos that I didn't have, until now.  It's like seeing him in color for the first time.

At the age of 24, Amos was 5'11", 175 lbs.  His body type is listed as "stout" which would suggest he had somewhat of a muscular build.  He had light chestnut brown hair and a sandy red beard.  His eye color suggests green or hazel, based on the way the description is written.  He had a high forehead, a medium/fair complexion, and a long, prominent nose.  His body was riddled with scars and marks, most likely from being a laborer and farmer his entire life (up to the age of 24 at least).

His occupation was listed as farmer, and he got a check next to the category of "occasionally intoxicated".  He was a Lutheran who was 16 when he left public school.  He could read and write "imperfectly" as evidenced by his signature on the prison ledger:

He signed it as Amos Ricker; Ricker being his mother's maiden name.  My guess is he didn't prefer using the name of Troutman since he was illegitimate.  At the age of 24, he could be using Troutman since he had a choice in the matter.  But it seems he preferred his mother's family name.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

James Blanding Sloan

Anyone who has been to our home has seen the wall in our dining room that houses our eclectic collection of Chicago-centric art.  One of the prints on the wall appears to be old and faded.  It has originally belonged to Kevin's maternal grandfather and was gifted to Kevin several years ago after Kevin had moved to Chicago.  It's one of those prints that you have to look at for a long time because the longer you look at it, the more you see.  At the bottom left on the print is written, "German building - Jackson Park Chicago" with the name of the artist written on the right side, James Blanding Sloan.  

Our print is number 9 of 100.

The German Building at Jackson Park (right) was originally built for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, the event that gave birth to Jackson Park as Chicagoans know it. All but a few of the hastily-erected but magnificent Expo structures burned down the following year through a series of accidental and malicious acts. The German Building, Iowa Building, Spanish Pavilion, Japanese Temple, and Palace of Fine Arts were survivors. The German Building lived on for another 30 years as a beach house, suffering fatal fire damage 30 years later. The Iowa Building was relocated to this spot at the south end of the beach. The Spanish Pavilion later became the LaRabida Hospital (minus newer structures), and the Palace of Fine Arts is better known today as the Museum of Science and Industry. 

James Blanding Sloan studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, the precursor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He was a versatile artist: painter, wood carver, graphic artist, set designer, illustrator, and puppeteer. Originally from Texas, he moved to San Francisco in the 1920s where he established a studio on Polk St. and owned a puppet theater on Montgomery St. From San Francisco, Sloan moved to Hollywood where he worked as a stage and set designer. In 1934, Sloan became the director of the WPA Federal Theater in Los Angeles.  

James Blanding Sloan
Sloan was a bit of a rascal.  I encourage you to read his Wikipedia page .  Not only was he an artist, he was also an activist.  Just after America entered World War I, he was arrested for posting signs which urged young men not to register for the military draft, but to claim exemptions as conscientious objectors.  

In 1929, he was arrested in San Francisco for pushing the boundaries of censorship by creating and using anatomically correct nude marionettes and puppets in his puppet theater shows for sold-out adult audiences. He also used his theater to run foreign films that had been banned elsewhere.

Kevin and I have always liked the print that hangs on our dining room wall with several other Chicago-themed prints.  But knowing the history of this one print -- and the ass-kicking nature of the artist behind the work -- probably makes this one a little more special than the others.

By 1948, James Blanding Sloan was living in Altadena, California, and in the mid-1960s moved to Berkeley, California, and then to the nearby town of Canyon, where he died at the age of 89.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Dollar Tree

People, I have discovered Dollar Tree.

I'd seen this store all around Chicago but never really paid much attention to it.  There are lots of other variety stores out there with "dollar" in the name, such as Family Dollar (owned by the same parent company), Dollar General, and K Dollar.  These stores sell items at discount prices, but for more than just a buck (ostensibly, the names are derived from the fact that all prices are rounded to the nearest whole dollar, avoiding the $.99 trap most often used in pricing).  I figured Dollar Tree was just another one of these stores.

Au contraire mon frère.

Walking through those doors is like having a religious experience.  I don't know if I can explain it completely, but perhaps it's simply knowing that every single item costs $1 at most.  I could buy an entire aisle's worth of stuff and still be able to justify spending the money because, hey - it was only a dollar!  It's the same feeling of power I get when all my laundry is clean or when I have a full tank of gas.  It's an "anything is possible" feeling.  It's powerful.

Back in 1982 or so, the new indoor mall opened back home when I was a teen.  It included a store called 99 Cents Only.  And for a teen on a budget, that's nirvana.  But I soon learned the "you get what you pay for" lesson because everything in that store was cheap (in more ways than one) and lacked any kind of quality.  It was mostly junky stuff, left over from the old 5 And Dime days.

But Dollar Tree is different.  The quality of its merchandise is better; it's not primo by any means, but it's better than what I have seen in other discount variety stores.  And it is the variety that keeps me intrigued.  I see the exact same items in Dollar Tree that I see in other stores, including my grocery store of choice, Mariano's.  For example, I can buy a bar of Yardley Oatmeal soap at Mariano's for $3.99, or I can buy it at Dollar Tree for $1.  I can buy crepe paper streamers at Target for $1.99 or I can buy them at Dollar Tree for $1.  I found $1 cereal bowls in Dollar Tree that exactly match the dishes we already had from Pottery Barn (and you can bet the PB dishses didn't cost $1 each!).

There are two Dollar Tree stores within walking distance from our house and I find I go to them regularly, not to buy items per se, although I always do) but to at least familiarize myself with what they have so I know where to go to buy them.

In short, I'm a huge fan - huuuuuge.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

I'm Yuuuge In Russia, Too

Every now and then, and not as often as I used to, I check the stats on my blog just to see if anyone is paying attention.  Surprisingly, they still are.  To be honest, I would continue writing this blog even if nobody read it but Kevin and my mother.  But people, most of whom I don't know, continue to check back now and then when I update.

I've had tracking data on my blog since the very beginning, nearly 12 years ago.  However, all the data prior to September 2013 seems to have been lost.  It was around that time that the URL for the blog changed from to simply, so it's possible all the previous data is tied to the old URL somehow and I can't access it.  So the information below is data gathered from September 2013 to present.

Overwhelmingly, I get most of my page views from the U.S.  But what is a "page view"?  There are 3 types of Web site statistics: a page view or pages, a hit, and a visitor or visits. Each of these measures something different:
  • Page Views / Pages – This measures how many times someone has viewed an entire page including all text, images, etc.
  • Hits – A single file request in the access log of a Web server. For example, a request for an HTML page with three graphic images will result in four hits in the log: one for the HTML text file and one for each of the graphic image files. While a hit is a meaningful measure of how much traffic a server handles, it can be a misleading indicator of how many pages are being viewed. Instead, advertising agencies and their clients look at the number of pages delivered and ad impressions or views.
  • Visitors / Visits – This is defined as a series of hits from any particular IP address. If any two hits are separated by 30 minutes or more, two visitors are counted. "Visitors" represent an extrapolated number.

Now that you know the difference, it's easy to understand that it's no surprise that the U.S. leads in page views.  What IS surprising is the list of countries immediately following: Almost 8,000 people in the Ukraine have read my blog.  I know this because I have the stats set to capture unique IP addresses, which means I know it's 8,000 different people as opposed to 2 people who have looked at it 4,000 times. So I am big in the Ukraine.

Nearly the same number of people in Israel have read my blog since late 2013, followed by Russia, then Canada rounding out the Top 5.

Now these numbers are nothing compared to the most popular blogs out there.  But I think they are impressive for a guy sitting at his dining room table spouting off his beliefs, interests, concerns, and sharing stories about his family a few times a month.  And they represent only a third of the historical blog numbers, which are unobtainable prior to 2013  In the early years of this blog - when blogs were at their most popular - it was not unusual for me to have a few hundred page views per day.

Countries not  listing enough page views to fall into the Top 10 List include Australia, Norway, Czech Republic, Thailand, Turkey, Brazil, South Korea, and Moldova, which only recently has come into the picture (but given their proximity to Ukraine, it was only a matter of time until my fabulousness crossed the border).

Friday, January 20, 2017

Our New Bathroom

The old bathroom inherited with the house.
It's been a while since I've posted anything about changes we've been making in our house.  We've been working hard on a few projects, one of which dominated most of last year: the buildout of the new master bathroom on the lower level.  The bathroom we WERE using was simply unacceptable.  It was 5' x 5', cramped and cold with the weirdest tile pattern imaginable (see right).  We knew when we bought the house that we wanted to change it.  At first, we were just going to somehow enlarge the space but then decided that the 10' x 10' room right next door being used as a combination laundry/storage room was simply under-utilized.  So we decided to switch the rooms.

Sounds easy, right?

We started the project just after New Year's Day 2016 and finished in August. When you only have evenings and weekends, it can take some time. Granted, we knew it would be a lot of work because we were going to have to run all new plumbing to a space that didn't already have it.  So we went into the project with high hopes and low expectations.  And it all started with opening the walls:

You know the old saying, "You never really know someone until you live with them"?  Well, that goes for your house too.  You never really know your house until you start opening up the walls to see how it's put together.  It always looks so easy on HGTV; a few hammers to the wall and then a good kick to knock the drywall through to the other side.  So simple.  So clean.  Not so.  Considering the previous owners of our house performed their own renovation at some point, I will either blame them directly for the mess we found inside our walls, or blame whatever Apple Dumpling Gang crew they hired to do the work for them.

In most areas, the drywall was not only nailed to the studs, it was also glued.  And behind the drywall, the previous crew used yardsticks from Crafty Beaver as spacers.  These yardsticks were also nailed and glued; nailed and glued onto another layer of plywood which was THEN nailed into the studs.

And when I say nailed, I don't mean they drove a nail every 18 inches or so.  I mean they nailed the shit outta everything.

Look at those pics above.  Look how many nails are in those boards.Those black dots in the picture on the left are nail holes from where we had to remove 3" nails.  This picture is indicative of the rest of the room.  And check out the picture in the middle.  It's not like we live on a fault line!  I don't know anything about construction but I know that's excessive support!

This project alone took the first couple of months.  We mostly broke down our responsibilities of Kevin doing demo and me coming in to clean it all up.  And it worked out well.  Once the walls were open, Kevin ran new electrical for outlets and an exhaust fan (the only item I specifically requested in the build out).

Kevin's folks came out one weekend to help install insulation, built a soffit to hide a gas line, and install new studs on which to apply new drywall.

Once all the walls were down and insulation was installed, it was time to run the new pipes, which meant jack-hammering a concrete floor in order to run the drain from the shower and connect the toilet to the main.

What we learned from moving the water main in the guest room last year was that the concrete floors on our lower level are thick - SUPER thick.  So we braced ourselves for a long battle with the floor.  Our plumber was generous enough to allow us to use his jackhammer for the project.  So over the course of about two weeks, the constant rat-a-tat of that tool permeated the house and surrounding area, as did the ensuing concrete dust.  I don't know why we didn't get a picture of ME using the jackhammer, but I will account for doing most of the work on this (I can say this because Kevin did most of the work on the rest of the bathroom).

We then called in the pros to run all the pipes and tie them into the stack.  This was the one thing we knew we needed help with.  After the pipes were run, the plumber built in the corner pan for the 4' x 3' shower (the the 7.5 foot high shower head!) and then filled the concrete back in with cement once again.

Then we took the project back over again.  Kevin and I installed cement board in the shower area and drywall around the rest of the bathroom.  Everything went swimmingly until Easter Sunday.  I had stopped working to put a turkey in the over for Easter dinner when I suddenly heard, "Bun, I cut myself!"  While trimming the cement board, Kevin slipped the utility knife and sliced through the thumb on his left hand - deep enough to require a trip to the emergency room and several stitches.

All thing considered, we had gone over 100 days without an accident.  Not many construction sites can boast that accomplishment.  Happy to say this was also the ONLY accident we experienced.  It might have ruined a turkey, but it saved a thumb.  And we have our very own "Out, damn spot" under the tile.

And speaking of tile, that's what came next.  We knew we wanted white subway tile in the shower and a charcoal tile on the floor.  We found the tile we liked the most in Home Depot and would always look at it every time we were in the store, which was at least once every weekend.  On the day we decided to just go buy it, our tile was significantly marked down without our knowing it.  Call it "tile kismet".  But before the tile could go down, we laid floor-radiant heating - crucial for a bathroom that is below grade.  Kevin's parents have lots of experience tiling, so they came back out to provide pointers and guidance.

We wanted the tile on the shower floor to be the same color as the floor, but that tile didn't come in smaller sizes.  But that didn't stop us.  We took a few of the remaining 24" tiles and Kevin cut them down into 3" x 3" squares for the shower floor.  Perfection.

The over the next few weeks, we painted the walls pale grey, the same color as the walls in our master and guest bedrooms on the same level.  Then we shopped for furniture, towels, rugs, etc.  And the last thing we did was cover the window in frosted paper to let in light but block the view.

The final look is below on the right.  For comparison, the before picture (taken from the original house listing 2 years ago) is on the left.

We couldn't be more satisfied and proud.  Big shout out to Pat and Dianne Byrne for their guidance and assistance.  Stay tuned for pictures of additional changes we've made in the past year.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Motion Sickness Is Genetic

For as long as I can remember, I've been the victim of motion sickness.  It was difficult for me to ride in a car as a child, sitting in the back seat, crushed between brothers and a sister, with little to no view of where we were going.  Hell for me was the obligatory weekend sojourn just about every summer of my youth through the winding roads of West-By-God-Virginia to "Camp".  Mom tried everything from having me sing songs to take my mind off of the trip to eating saltines.  As I became more familiar with the ride, the motion sickness lessened.  It wasn't long after that Camp got sold and we never went back.  Such is my life.

Even today, it is sometimes hard for me to be a passenger in a car.  So far, though, I've never been sick on an airplane or a cruise ship.  However riding on the L makes me nauseous, now and then; there are times I have to step off the train for air, then wait to catch the next one.  Certain rides in amusement parks are strictly off-limits.  And I am persona non grata on Space Mountain in Disneyland a few years ago.  

Last year, the consumer genetics firm 23AndMe issued the first ever genome-wide association study of motion sickness. The study, published in Oxford Journals’ Human Molecular Genetics is the first to reveal the genetic variants of motion sickness and involved 80,000 consenting customers who had submitted material to 23AndMe to be genetically analyzed.

That's right - you can blame motion sickness on your parents.

Given that roughly one in three people are affected by motion sickness, the study is obviously valuable—and given the highly hereditary nature of motion sickness effects, mapping genetic effects of motion sickness is a perfect fit for 23AndMe. Results from the study have estimated that up to 70% of the variation in risk for motion sickness is due to genetics.  And it found 35 genetic factors associated with motion sickness that are statistically significant when compared with the whole human genome instead of just looking at particular genes. 

Many of these factors are in or near genes involved in balance and eye, ear, and cranial development—meaning motion sickness likely triggers effects in these areas. They even found that several of these factors had the potential to hit women harder, potentially tripling motion sickness' effect on those systems. The study also confirmed that people suffering motion sickness are more prone to migraines, vertigo, morning sickness, and are poor sleepers. Overall, the results pointed toward the importance of the nervous system in motion sickness and a possible role for glucose levels in motion-induced nausea and vomiting.

My brother Matt is afflicted with motion sickness as well, but to my knowledge, our younger brother Mike and sister Kim are not.  Genetics is a fickle thing - just like I am the only one with green eyes, heart issues, and hair loss.

But I am the best looking one.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

So It's Not A Tooth Root After All...

If you've been following my blog for the past 6 months, you'll know my never-ending story about my sinuses (cue Limahl and the Luck Dragon).  You'll also know that the "sinus story" evolved into the "dental story".  For more years than I care to admit, I've consciously put off going to the dentist due to either my unrealized fear of them or the realized fear of not having all my teeth.

I've been to the dentist three times now.  The first time was just a cleaning, no big deal.  The second time was a root canal.  I was prepared for the worst but it actually turned out to be not too bad.  There was minimal pain.  The third visit, on December 30th, was quite a bit different for several reasons:

Visit 3 was extraction day.  Not proud to admit it, but I needed to have 4 teeth extracted - teeth that were beyond saving, all on the bottom.  These were teeth that either due to my teeth grinding or medications I've taken or oral infections were reduced to either mere nubs or were down to the roots.  The act of having a tooth pulled is invasive at best and violent at worst.  Because I expected a reaction similar to the one I experienced in my ENT's office, I asked for the nitrous oxide, which in the end did absolutely nothing for me.

I was able to hold it together through the appointment.  Kevin picked me up afterwards and as soon as I got in the car, I lost it.  I mean, really lost it.  This was worse than what I experienced in the ENT's office.  Again, I have no understanding or reason as to why I am so emotionally tied up in my mouth/face.  But I cried - almost to the point of hysteria.  And despite Kevin's best efforts to comfort me, nothing was going to pacify the emotions I felt.  I had to just let it out.  For a good 10 minutes or so, I bawled unashamedly.  If anyone has a clue as to why, I'm all ears.

But perhaps the biggest revelation from Visit 3 was that my dentist confirmed that the thing in my mouth that has punctured my sinuses is actually not a tooth root, as hypothesized by my ENT, but some kind of cyst that has grown in my gums.  I'll now have to go to an orgal surgeon to have the cyst removed, biopsied, and to have the hole it's created patched.  I'm dumbing down the procedure in my mind so as not to get completely freaked out about it, but I'm guessing it's a big deal of some kind.  I go next week for a consultation.

So along with having mold growing in my sinuses for I-don't-know how long, I also have a cyst growing in my gums.  I doubt any amount of antibiotics would help me at this point, but that doesn't stop every doctor from prescribing them for me.  I just finished my 7th round of antibiotics since June 2016.

I expect more emotional outbursts as I continue to navigate this weirdness inside my head.  And fortunate to have friends, family, and most of all Kevin to keep me calm, sane, and level-headed.

Saturday, January 07, 2017


I recently took a personality test - StrengthsFinder from Gallup, developed by Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D.  I've taken many of these kinds of assessments through the years, but this was the first time I've taken this particular one.  The goal for StrengthsFinder is that by answering about 50 questions, they can determine my top 5 personality strengths.

The outcome was pretty fascinating.

Kevin had taken this same test about 3 weeks earlier at work and shared his results with me.  Not surprisingly, his results centered around being a strategic thinker, goal-oriented, being futuristic in thought.  So when my office asked me to take it, I was interested to see how we would compare.  My top 5 strengths in StrengthsFinder are:
  1. Consistency
  2. Context
  3. Intellection
  4. Discipline
  5. Harmony (this one is a surprise)
If you know me at all, you'll agree that these are probably the best 5 words in the English language to describe who I am.  Below I'm providing abridged versions of the theme descriptions, and bolded some things that stand out to me particularly.  Here's more of a peek inside me:

Balance is important to you. You are keenly aware of the need to treat people the same, no matter what their station in life, so you do not want to see the scales tipped too far in any one person’s favor. In your view this leads to selfishness and individualism. You believe that people function best in a consistent environment where the rules are clear and are applied to everyone equally. This is an environment where people know what is expected. It is predictable and evenhanded. It is fair. 
You look back. You look back because that is where the answers lie. You look back to understand the present. It is only by casting your mind back to an earlier time, a time when the plans were being drawn up, that the present regains its stability. The earlier time was a time of blueprints. As you look back, you begin to see these blueprints emerge. You you make better decisions because you sense the underlying structure. You become a better partner because you understand how your colleagues came to be who they are. And counterintuitively you become wiser about the future because you saw its seeds being sown in the past. Faced with new people and new situations, it will take you a little time to orient yourself, but you must give yourself this time. 
You like to think. You like mental activity. You like exercising the “muscles” of your brain, stretching them in multiple directions. This need for mental activity may be focused; for example, you may be trying to solve a problem or develop an idea or understand another person’s feelings. You are the kind of person who enjoys your time alone because it is your time for musing and reflection. 
Your world needs to be predictable. It needs to be ordered and planned. So you instinctively impose structure on your world. You set up routines. You focus on timelines and deadlines. You need precision. Faced with the inherent messiness of life, you want to feel in control. The routines, the timelines, the structure, all of these help create this feeling of control. Your dislike of surprises, your impatience with errors, your routines, and your detail orientation don’t need to be misinterpreted as controlling behaviors that box people in. Rather, these behaviors can be understood as your instinctive method for maintaining your progress and your productivity in the face of life’s many distractions.
The last strength, Harmony, makes complete sense in my professional life, but not necessarily in my personal life.  Professionally, I am at most times a mediator.  I am the middle man between front line staff and organization leadership.  I listen and advise as needed.  I don't make decisions in my profession; I make many suggestions on how to proceed, then trust the the best option is selected by the other party.  But personally, I LOVE a good debate and I am not shy about sharing my opinions.  Of course, StrengthsFinder is a professional tool.  So this is an interesting case where the professional me and the personal me are not the same person:

You look for areas of agreement. In your view there is little to be gained from conflict and friction, so you seek to hold them to a minimum. When you know that the people around you hold differing views, you try to find the common ground. You try to steer them away from confrontation and toward harmony. When others are sounding off about their goals, their claims, and their fervently held opinions, you hold your peace. When others strike out in a direction, you will willingly, in the service of harmony, modify your own objectives to merge with theirs (as long as their basic values do not clash with yours). When others start to argue about their pet theory or concept, you steer clear of the debate, preferring to talk about practical, down-to-earth matters on which you can all agree. In your view we are all in the same boat, and we need this boat to get where we are going. It is a good boat. There is no need to rock it just to show that you can.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Annus Horribilus

And it goes like it goes and the river flows
And time it rolls right on
And maybe what's good gets a little bit better
And maybe what's bad gets gone

This is how I am summing up 2016.  This is the chorus of "It Goes Like It Goes", the slightly eerie Oscar-winning theme song to Norma Rae.  Because if 2016 taught me anything, it's to continue to expect disappointment while constantly hoping for better. 

No doubt, 2016 will go down as one of the worst years at least in my lifetime.  Not before in my 50 years on Earth has a 365-day period produced such challenging and disappointing loss.  I've never been so glad to see a year come to an end.  If the last 8 years has taught me anything, it's that there is always hope.  And I look to 2017 to provide and fulfill that hope to a reasonable degree.

This year started off with such promise.  We celebrated New Year's Eve in NYC with our friend, Tim - a person who embodies hope and wonder.  We saw a few Broadway shows and I reconnected with Kathy, a dear college friend and former housemate.  I vowed then to reconnect with all my lost college mates, but I didn't follow through.  And I think that pretty much sums up 2016 - full of promises that were not fulfilled, both individually and collectively.

2016 could have been one of the greatest years in our country's history.  But instead, it showed us and the world how backward we still are as a country while we laid out plans to not only stop social growth, but to roll it back by decades.  Again, I'll look to 2017 to hopefully prove that wrong.

Since January 1, 2016, I gained and lost 2 jobs, and my current one is on shaky ground thanks to the policies of the incoming presidential administration.

I fought (and continue to fight) a long health struggle.  Nothing major like dealing with heart surgery or fighting back from a stroke or dealing with cancer.  Thank God.  Most of my year was fighting something as mundane as a sinus infection that simply would not go away.  For the last 7 months of the year, it's been headaches, malaise, horrific odors, and the constant battle between stuffy or runny nose.

I missed a few planned vacations with my husband because I was too sick to travel.  My entire summer was spent at home, save for forcing myself to attend a cookout now and then so that Kevin wasn't doing everything without me.

It was another year of my Dad slowly progressing into his own world due to dimentia.  Another year of him living in the nursing home and Mom visiting him two times a day every day.  Another year of their lives stagnating, living apart, and feeling helpless and hopeless.  Again, I call on 2017 to provide clarity.

2016 took many wonderful people from us.  On a personal note, the loss of Judy, my mother's best friend, continues to resonate with so many people.  My posting about her ended up being the 3rd most read post of my entire blog, following the two posts about Carol Burnett.  And rightly so.  Judy was an amazing woman full of love.  Her absence made this past Christmas that much more bleak.

There were certainly rays of sunshine during this year: the marriages of family and friends help lighten the levity of the rest of the year, doing their parts in keeping hope alive; our trip to the Baltic Sea and the wonders that brought; seeing family when we could and friends as often as possible.  There were certainly simple joys throughout the year.  And certainly another year of life is enough to be grateful for.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Sound of Metaphor

Last night, we watched The Sound of Music on TV.  Like most Americans, I've seen this musical a hundred times.  It was the first movie my parents took us to.  I must have been 5 or 6, but I remember sitting in The Palace Theater on Main Street and watching this movie, and being so taken by it that my parents bought me the soundtrack album.  The cover folded out with colored pictures and a complete write-up of the show.  My boyhood crush on Julie Andrews was in full-swing.

Watching the movie last night, I couldn't help but be struck by the fact that the characters are a metaphor for our times. So who are YOU in this movie? 
Are you Maria who sets out to accomplish an impossible task and succeeds despite experiencing some failure? 
Are you Captain Von Trapp who stands up for his convictions no matter the consequences? 
Are you the nuns who sacrifice their safety for what is right? 
Are you Baroness Elsa Schraeder who initially fights for what she wants but eventually, and somewhat easily, concedes defeat and accepts the status quo?
Are you Leisl who wants more from life and is struggling to move forward despite being restricted and caught between dueling sides? 
Are you Rolf, easily swayed and intoxicated by power from a leader who offers empty promises but taps into your need for self-importance?  And who is gullible enough to join a militant faction while telling his near-age mate that she's being naive? 
Are you the Von Trapp children who are disinterested with social conformity? 
Are you Hans Zeller loyal to the party no matter what ugly turn it takes?
Movies, specifically musicals, are meant to transport us someplace else, to temporarily forget our problems and live in a world of magic, dancing, singing, and love.  But I couldn't help but feel that at least this time, The Sound of Music was too eerily current.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Granny's Dishes

When I was a boy, I spent many weekends with my Granny at her house, which was mostly within sight of my parents' house one street over.  I ate many meals with her and I always loved her dishes.  They were the only thing I actually would have loved to have when she passed away in 1987, but they went to my uncle who had been living with her at the time.  He eventually moved away, got married, then divorced, became infirm, and then passed away himself a few years ago.  Where Granny's set of dishes eventually went is anyone's guess.

My recent acquisition: 
Kenro Holiday Collection
Back then, Granny bought her dishes a few at a time from a traveling salesman who would come to the house on a regular basis.  I don't know how she bought them (all plates first or all one color, etc), but I know it was in pieces - not all at once like we do today.  That's how she bought a lot of things.  I remember as a kid watching her talk to visiting salesmen who were selling just about anything.  That's how things were done back then.  With 9 kids, it wasn't like she could just go shopping, and there weren't many stores in her very rural neck of the woods.

So resigning to never actually owning her set, I decided to just buy a set for myself.  All I knew from my own mother was that they were melamine dishes from a company called Melmac.  So I set out to find them.  And I learned that Mother was half right.  The company that made the melamine dishes was actually named Kenro, one of the great melamine manufacturers that outlived most. One may argue it was their timing or their keen ways of marketing and management that sustained them during economic change.  

Kenro was named for it's owners and inventors, Kenneth Welch (president) and Roger Sacia (vice president).  Their first plant, in Freedonia  Wisconsin at 200 Industrial Drive (established in 1953), turned out 24 hours worth of plastic products, and 2 Million dollars in annual sales by 1958.  The company was so overwhelmed, a second location in Galesville, WI was in swing by the end of 1958, set to open in February 1959.  By 1959 a lot of earlier plastics companies were on their way out due to rising production costs and a general lack of love for melamine by consumers. Kenro's successful lines were Holiday by Kenro, Debonaire Melmac, and various kitchen plastics.  Granny's dishes were the speckled Holiday by Kenro line, specifically red, turquoise, yellow, and white.

Kenneth and Roger decided to patent their technique for METHOD AND COMPOSITION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF SPECKLED PLASTIC WARE on April 6, 1954  This patent would technically prove them being "first to patent the speckled ware" although they weren't exactly first to invent it.  The diagram at right is the patent for the set's sugar bowl, considered futuristic in its day.

Identifying Kenro items is easy, since most items are clearly marked on the bottom.  What may be confusing is dating. Some will list patent numbers on them, and some will say patent pending. The patent pending is obviously older and scarcer because the company had applied for a patent, which wasn't granted for the items before production began.  Later items show the original patent which does not necessarily mean they were produced on that date of the patent, but is simply referring to their original patent. You will see script and print backstamps for Kenro.

So now, after several years of scouring Etsy, eBay, and just about every vintage retail shop in every city we've visited the last few years, not to mention the numerous times I made a bid on eBay only to lose out at the last minute, I was FINALLY able to purchase a large set of Kenro Holiday dishes for my very own.  They arrived earlier this week and are instantly among my personal treasures.  They aren't Granny's, but they remind me of her especially today, December 14th, on what would be her 107th birthday.

Still not completely sure if these will be every-day dishes, used for special occasions, or never used at all.  But buying something I may never use isn't like me. I do plan on adding to the collection - not insanely, just a piece here and there as I find it.  Kenro Holiday dinnerware is a lot like melted plastic popcorn: so much of it was made that it's hard to know what all is out there and available.  And like those window decorations, I'll buy what I like when I see it.

But for now, I'm just going to sit at the dining room table and enjoy the view.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Years Of Dental Pain

T'was three weeks before Christmas and all through my mouth
Was a mess of great doing; my teeth work had gone south.

Oh screw it, here's what's going on.

I'm sure no one can quickly forget that my 2016 was dominated by one story.  The year will no doubt be remembered as "The Year of the Sinuses".  On my last visit to my ENT, he told me that the root of my problem (pun intended) was a tooth root that had broken off in my gum and punctured my sinuses, allowing bacteria from my mouth to get into them and cause recurrent infections.  But of course it did.  So now a trip to the dentist was in order if not downright necessary.

I'm not proud to admit that my last dentist appointment was in July 2005.  Problems with my teeth have been brewing for many years and I've just not done anything about it.  I guess I figured that there was no real hope of saving my teeth, so I just planned on waiting it out until I would need a mouth full of implants, partials or full-on dentures.  My siblings all have great teeth, but no amount of  dental hygiene was going to prevent mine from deteriorating.  And I figured that as long as the front ones still looked good, I could buy time.

I don't know why, but there is a lot of emotion centered around my face.  When I went to pieces on my first follow up appointment with my ENT, I remember telling Kevin that I would have a similar reaction going to a dentist.  I don't know why this is.  I don't recall having a bad experience with a dentist per se.  Perhaps some of it is the fact that over the years, I've quietly dealt with some severe pain in my mouth as teeth broke off, nerves became exposed, and gums bled.  And also, perhaps some of it - or most of it - is just plain embarrassment.  I don't seem to have this same problem when my eyes are examined; there's just something about my nose and mouth.

Back in July 2005, though, I took steps to fix everything.  I scoured DC for a dentist whom I would be able to trust and would work with me to fix my issues.  I remember the dentist asking me what my greatest fear was.  I said, "Having to leave this office without teeth in my mouth".  He said, "What if I promised you that would never happen?"  And I felt better.  So we made appointments to get things done.  My goal was to have it all complete before I moved to Chicago in September.  And then I had a heart attack, which nixed everything.

But now it's time to take care of it.  Indeed my health depends on it.  So I did about a week's worth of research and found a dental practice.  I met with the dentist and I trust him - for the most part.  I shared my fears and emotional distress and we talked through it.  I go in for a cleaning this week, but the real work will start in January when my dental insurance renews.  Not surprisingly, I need a lot of work done.  But the goal is to save as much as possible and then deciding if I want to do anything cosmetic.

Here's hoping 2017 doesn't become "The Year of the Teeth".

Friday, December 02, 2016

Burning The Flag

The American flag is one of the many symbols America uses to identify itself. It's steeped in tradition and even has it's own little fairy tale of a story about its origins. Americans love the story of Betsy Ross’s making the nation’s first official flag. For 150 years now, the tale of the plucky, practical Philadelphia seamstress has occupied a comfortable niche in the country’s patriotic pantheon alongside the stories of Paul Revere, the Minutemen, and Valley Forge.
Ross is so beloved and so deeply embedded in the nation’s memory that somehow it seems unpatriotic, if not vaguely treasonous, to cast doubt on her story. The truth, however, is that nobody can prove that Betsy Ross had anything to do with the first official Stars and Stripes.  There's truly no good historical evidence that she had anything to do with its creation, but we like believing it anyway.  Even the Betsy Ross House, now a Philadelphia museum honoring her, promotes her story but encourages visitors to decide whether it’s “historical fact or well-loved fiction.”
But at it's core, the flag is just a symbol. That's all, just a symbol; a thing. It's not living. It means nothing, really. So if someone wants to exercise their 1st Amendment right and set fire to the flag and burn it, so what? It doesn't hurt anyone.

We've become a nation so bothered by the actions of others that we are neglecting to check ourselves and be accountable for our own actions; a nation of Christians who simply refuse to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ; a nation of people who would rather record the wrongdoings of a person rather than step in to stop them or, better yet, engage them in conversation as to why they are acting the way they are. And why? Because despite screaming about how much we care, we really don't. We don't really care. We don't care if our actions affect another person. We don't care if inaction hurts another person. We don't care if our beliefs infringe on the beliefs of another person. We don't care. As long as we get ours, we don't care.

We elected a man to the presidency who thinks it's okay to sexually molest women and young girls.

We don't care.

Hate crimes in New York City have risen by 31% compared to this same time in 2015.

We don't care.

There's been an outbreak of about 900 hate crimes since the election in November.

We don't care.

Our country has no gun laws, save for the American right to bear arms, bear meaning we have a right to keep them and carry them, but not necessarily a right to purchase them; an amendment that was written at a time when the country had to call on private citizens to defend itself against invaders. Not the case anymore. Anyone can buy a gun. Anyone can use a gun. Anyone can be shot anywhere at anytime, including children in schools and students at universities and people simply going about their daily lives.

We don't care.

Our police officers are killing - KILLING - Americans. They're not maiming them to prevent running away, not shooting them in the arms to disarm them - killing them. It seems an officer's first response is to kill someone, not slow them or stop them in order to understand motives and actions. We will never have answers to the thousands of questions we have when something goes wrong.

We don't care.

A Texas-based company wants to run a natural gas pipeline through Sioux territory in North Dakota that could contaminate their drinking water as well as traverse their sacred burial grounds, and despite environmentalists' claims that the pipeline could ruin the ecosystem.

We don't care.

People in Flint, Michigan haven't had clean drinking water since April 2014. It's so bad, it's called a crisis by FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. But there's no outrage about it. Why? Because...

We don't care.

So I don't understand all the hullabaloo about setting fire to a piece of material. It means nothing. When people are suffering and grieving and unable to live their lives and we don't do anything about that, why on earth would we rise up because someone burns a flag that has come to represent division, hatred, and intolerance? I love my country and I am happy, thankful, and proud to be an American. And I will fight with whatever tools I have to help get it back on track. But as far as burning the American flag goes...

I don't care.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

My Lovely Sinus Surgery . . . Continued

For the past month or so, my sinuses have worsened.  I'm sure you, like me, had thought all of this was behind me.  But to pick up where we left off in August, I went in for a follow up appointment in September.  What we found during that appointment was that my sinuses did not heal correctly.

If you put your hands together flatly, the way a child does when praying, and then you bring the fingers of your right hand down so that the tops are pressed against the inside knuckles of your left hand, you'll form 3 sides of a square, or it will look like a lowercase "h".  That's how your sinuses are supposed to be.  Mine, however, healed closed:  Put your hands back in the same praying position, but keep all your fingers pressed flatly together while pulling your right wrist away from your left hand.  Quite different.

And of course, an infection had developed.  So back on antibiotics and steroids I went.  Two rounds each.  Eventually the headaches that I had above my left eyebrow returned, with greater intensity this time.  So I made another appointment for two weeks ago.  My doctor, apparently, had forgotten my appointment and had gone home for the day before I arrived, so an intern saw me and told me to schedule another appointment for after Thanksgiving.

As the pain in my head intensified, it ended up curtailing my Thanksgiving plans.  I didn't go to dinner at Neil and Bob's, which we do every year.  I would have been lousy company.  But I sent Kevin just so he'd come back with leftovers.  I also didn't accompany Kevin to Ohio to see family for the rest of the weekend for the same reasons.  I didn't get leftovers that time, but he did buy me some antique Christmas ornaments for our tree.  Just as wonderful!

So I went in for my appointment with my ENT this past Monday at 2:30.  Because the previous meeting with him had rendered me an emotional disaster, he had prescribed me Valium this time to hopefully calm my nerves to allow him to actually do some work cleaning out my sinuses.  His goal this time was to remove the tissue that had sealed my sinuses so that they could once again drain.  He also needed to continue vacuuming out debris left behind from the original surgery.

This time, I decided to go alone, to not have Kevin with me.  While it was wonderful to have him there for support last time, I thought that I might have used him as an emotional crutch.  Alone, I would just make myself get through it - tough it out.  He wanted to come for support, but I thought I'd do better alone.  And I apparently did.

There were still a few surprises.  For example, the Valium did a good job of calming me down.  It didn't stop the pain I felt, but it did allow me to concentrate on Kevin's face - the very thought of which was a happy distraction.  And the fact that the doctor put a needle up my nose in order to numb my sinus cavities was jarring.  This was - again - something I had to just accept was going to happen and allow him to do it.

When all was said and done and the doctor left the room for me to just relax, I looked over at the tray he was using during the procedure.  It pretty much looked like a surgical tray to me:

Note the bloody instruments and the blood splatter on the cabinet in the bottom of the photo.  Classic.

I was given a few instructions and permitted to leave.  Once I got out to the street, I felt a runny nose coming on, so I reached for a tissue in m pocket and dabbed my nose only to see the tissue cover with blood.  I thought it was weird that the doctor let me leave the office without 1) letting me know I might bleed at all and/or 2) not giving me something in case I did bleed.  This has been indicative of my medical treatment throughout this endeavor.

I made it home and laid on the couch.  Kevin came home with treats and new slippers for me - the world's best nurse.

So if history taught me anything, it's that my nose will probably drip blood for the rest of today, and then once the swelling subsides the sinuses will drain for about a week or so.  I feel like great progress was made yesterday.  So I am hoping that this really IS the last chapter in this saga.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Blog Problems

At some point last week, I clicked on my blog and realized all the image on it were gone.  All of them.  Well, not exactly all - just every picture posted since December 12, 2006.  Even the header was gone.  I reached out to Blogger (my host) for help and am so far being helped by a very patient woman named Penny.  But so far everything we try doesn't seem to yield a positive result.

Apparently, something has happened between Blogger, Google Photos and Picasa.  Despite having a Google album named after this blog, which shows all of the photos being stored in archive, we can't seem to get them to reappear on my blog.  Going forward, not a problem.  However I - and by extension, you - can't see photos posted on previous posts.

There are certainly bigger problems in the world, but having this issue fixed would be nice, but not important.  Just wanted to post an explanation in case you, like me, were wondering what recently happened.

Hopefully Penny will find a fix.  She keeps coming back with suggestions to try.  And she seems to know her stuff.  But who knows.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fear And Loathing In America

Just over 150 years ago, our country fought a civil war in which, figuratively, half of the country believed that all men were created equal, and the other half did not. Comparatively, the results of the recent election were clear: half the country voted in favor of bigotry and racism, and the other half did not.  One hundred fifty years ago, our country lost about 620,000 citizens in that war, and countless thousands since have lost their lives in the pursuit of the words Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
And this is, perhaps, what has bothered me the most about this election.  I had no idea I lived in a country where, despite all our social programs, activism, awareness, and laws, we are still a country of divisive hate and fear; where the citizens of a country founded on the principles of religious freedom continue to spew hatred at people who observe different religions; a country where the words nigger and faggot are used as easily today as they were 60 years ago; a country where the Ku Klux Klan can endorse a presidential candidate who goes on to win the election.

 And to say I am disappointed by all of this is putting it mildly.

Since Tuesday night, it has been far from "business as usual" for me.  I've tried to not watch the news and have attempted to stay off of Facebook for a while in order to clear my head.  As Tuesday evening went on, I could feel the growing tension as my personal bubble burst all around me.  It was like waking from a nap and looking at a clock that reads 7:00 but you don't know if it's 7AM or 7PM.  That state of confusion has been my constant for the past several days.  It's like I don't know where I am or even what day it is.  On Wednesday in my office at work, I was suddenly so overcome with emotion that I cried.  For the first time in my life, I wept for my country.

I wept for the children who now think it is acceptable to hate people based on their private beliefs or the color of their skin.

I wept for the teen boys who will believe it's perfectly acceptable to sexually molest or assault a girl, or each other.

I wept for all the women who will die attempting to self-abort an unwanted or risky pregnancy.

I wept for people who will lose access to social programs - canceled because the deficit will grow too high.

I wept for the fact that the New Colossus on the Statue of Liberty really means absolutely nothing to many Americans.

I wept for all the Ringling Brothers that will come with this Barnum in the forms of a spite-ridden Christie, a hate-mongering Giuliani, and a despicable Gingrich, to name a few.

I wept for the fact that we have sullied the reputation of the presidency by putting a man who espouses bigotry, hated and misogyny in The White House; a man whose name will now be forever linked to names like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt; a man who will be so mired down in his own personal lawsuits (sexual impropriety, fraud, Trump University, for raping a childamong others) that he won't have the time to properly prepare for his next role.

And by "role", I mean I honestly think he doesn't even want to be president, he just wanted to win the election.  Mark my words here, I give him two years (and that's being generous) until something happens.  He's going to find out how in-over-his-head he is.  He will either be impeached or resign.  And then Mike Pence, who by all accounts is no better of a human being, will assume the Presidency.  Trump will walk away, just as he has from all of his previous business ventures.

When George W. Bush was elected in 2000, then re-elected in 2004 - sure, I was annoyed.  But I wasn't afraid like I am today.  I am actually afraid today.  I fear my non-white friends will be treated unfairly and will be hurt in some way.  I fear that my job in cultural exchange will end because the new administration will make it impossible for foreigners to come to the country.  I fear that people will die because they no longer have access to medicine and healthcare.  I fear our allies will turn their backs on us because of our choices.  I fear that we will alienate ourselves from the rest of the world.  And I have the very real fear my country could revoke my marriage and tell me that I am no longer allowed to be married to the person I love, or that my marriage doesn't "mean the same" as a "traditional marriage".  I fear that my rights as a citizen will once again be stripped from me by my own legislators.

Even if just 1 of these fears is realized, it's 1 fear too many.  For the past few days, I've wanted to post my feelings but didn't want anyone who read them to pass them off as those of a sore loser.  Because my personal senses of disappointment and loss are minor compared to the loss my country will face for what could be generations to come. Absent hyperbole, this was an election that will ruin people's lives, tear apart families, and put the health of millions of people at risk either through denied healthcare or family planning.  And why?  Because somehow, white men feel disenfranchised in a country in which they have had complete control for more than 500 years.  They've allowed the fear of what they don't know to cloud their judgment.  And they've allowed a carnival barker to prey on and exploit those fears to his own advantage.

I wish I was wrong.  I hope that I am.  But why should I be?  With all the great leadership we've had in this country for the past 150 years, why should I expect a man with the divisive morals of a maggot to now be able to lead us to a better place?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Sexual Aggression Goes Both Ways

Physical and verbal assaults are not relegated to only women.  It's a form of bullying perpetrated by insecure people to make them feel better about themselves by demeaning someone else.  Last week I wrote about the "outdoor locker room" and how men's unsolicited verbal advances on women is more prevalent than we may have thought.  However this behavior is not a simple one-way street.  I've had my fair share of aggressive verbal and physical behaviors from both women AND men.  And while men can be verbally abusive, women somehow feel that they have a certain right to men's bodies that causes them to act far more aggressively than you'd expect.

I'm old and married now, but let me go back several years, even back to when I first started writing this blog even; back to when I was younger and a lot more buff.  I can't count the number of times I was out with friends in a club or a bar, or even at a house party or gathering, when a woman approached me and, without asking my permission or receiving my consent, proceeded to grab my arms or rub my chest.  "You're so big!," they'd coo.  "How big are your arms?"  "I just want to hug you."  "Can you pick me up?"

I was always uncomfortable when this happened and, worse, I was unsure how to respond.  The thing is, men are supposed to want to be adored.  Our workouts aren't so we can get stronger, it's so that we can look more impressive, look more masculine, attract a mate.  We are supposed to want to be desired - it's what evolution and society taught us.  We've also been taught that men cannot be assaulted by women, i.e. that a weaker opponent is unable to harm a stronger one.  Men get assaulted by women all the time.  And men can get raped by women.  It happens, despite people dismissing, ridiculing, or even snickering about the very thought.

And of course, men assault and rape other men.  We all know the stories.  And back in the day, being gay only compounded the matter for me.  Other gay men would feel they had carte blanche to just reach out and grab me whenever and wherever they wanted.  It was nothing for a lone hand to reach through a crowd and squeeze one of my pecs.  In the beginning, I would demurely pull away, but it became so prevalent that I eventually struck back.  I'm not sure how many fingers I broke in those days, but I would very quickly grab a finger on the obtrusive hand and yank it in the opposite direction.  I once complained to the manager of JR's bar in DC about someone who was being uncomfortably aggressive with me.  The manager's response was simply, "get it girl."  Gay assault is not taken seriously at all.  We're apparently supposed to appreciate the attention.

I've never liked being touched by someone, anyone, who was not a very close friend or family member.  As a kid, I had a hard time with swimming lessons because I didn't like being handled in the water by someone I didn't know.  When I'd go out and see friends, it was mostly a wave from a distance or even a handshake.  Eventually, most gay men in DC knew when they could touch me.  I refused to play the game.  Perhaps this is why not many of my DC friendships survived after I moved to Chicago where, interestingly enough, I didn't face the same kind of aggression.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"Hey Baby, Shake Dat Ass Hard!"

Yesterday, while walking back from lunch, my stride caught me up to three mature men who were meandering down the sidewalk.  And by mature, I'll say in their 50s.  Just as I caught up to them, a young woman with a fuller figure came out of a door ahead of us, walking in the same direction.  The words these men then shouted at this woman were shocking - yelling at her to "shake it", calling her "baby", and naming her certain body part, among other things.  The woman neither responded nor reacted.  She just kept walking.  I couldn't see her face.

My stride was more in-line with hers so as I passed through the three men and got ahead of them, I saw the woman then walk passed another man who had come out of a building for a smoke.  As he lit his cigarette, he made a comment to her, watched her pass him, then shouted something to her.  Again, she neither reacted nor responded.

When I started writing this post, I listed the races of these 5 people.  And then I thought, "Does it matter that they are all the same race?  Does it even matter what their race is at all?"  It shouldn't.

With all that's in the media about what's referred to as "locker room talk", I can tell you here and now that the sort of language we've been saying disgusts us as a society is alive and well and living on our sidewalks, not just in our locker rooms.  And while this is not to give Donald Trump a pass on his behavior, it's to say that the rhetoric is prevalent - maybe not in ALL groups, but certainly in some.  It's obviously not the first time I've ever witnessed something like this, and it's not like Donald Trump has caused this to happen.  He's only pulled the rug back to expose what was already there by giving "The Deplorables" permission to be unashamedly vocal about their hatred, contempt, and scorn.

We have such a long way to go as a society. How we talk to each other demonstrates respect for self and others.  Sexual aggression is not reserved just for women; men get a fair share of it as well.  The language I heard on a Chicago sidewalk yesterday demonstrated that those men had absolutely no respect for the woman, and certainly none for themselves.  They weren't quiet or soft spoken; they wanted to be heard and they didn't care by whom.  Time was that "cat calls" used to come from construction workers high over head or from behind a fence.  There was still an element of safety for women because there was distance - some spacial barrier that made women feel uncomfortable, yet still allow them to feel (hopefully) unthreatened.  However today, it's right there; there are no barriers and there is no protection.  Women are being degraded and approached by men who are standing or sitting right next to them.

At first I wondered how these four men would feel if they heard someone yelling these things to their wives or daughters or even grand-daughters.  And I decided that ultimately, they probably wouldn't care.  Because if you can do it to someone, you couldn't possibly care if it's done to someone else, really.  You might bluster about it, but you don't care.  Unless it's done to you.

Today, I kick myself for not staying something at least to the first three men.  I don't know what I would have said, but I should have said something.  It most likely would have created an argument, but I rarely shy away from those, anyway.  Instead, I made the excuse that I was going to a meeting and didn't have time for an altercation.  But how would these men know that what they did was unacceptable if I - or anybody for that matter - didn't say something. Then again, why is it MY responsibility to tell three men in their 50s that their behavior is disgusting.

I often wonder if this behavior actually works or has ever worked.  When a man has cat-called a woman on the street, has she ever turned around to thank him and then proceed to make a date with him?  Has that ever worked?  Common sense would tell me "no", but then I think it must have, otherwise, this behavior would have died out by now.  I mean . . . right?  I'm grasping at straws, here.

This Presidential election cycle has done many things, chief among them the exposure of our country's underbelly.  Like I said, it's always been there.  It's nothing that was newly created or just popped up because of one man's pathetic behavior.  Granted, he's given it validation, but the light has been turned on to the beliefs and lacks of moral compass demonstrated by his dedicated followers.  And going forward, we will no longer be able to just turn off the light, close the door and hope that no one hears noises coming from the room that we might have to explain and most assuredly apologize for.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Bagging Groceries

I posted a quick blurb about this on Facebook once, but then decided it deserved a full-on rant that only I can provide.  So here goes.

If, like me, you are an obsessive person who revels in neatness, organization, and symmetry, then something as mundane as watching another person bag your groceries can put you in such a stressful and anxious state that you either have to stop the person immediately or, again like me, allow the person to finish only to move the cart to another location and re-bag everything as you see fit. Because, for the life of me, I can't understand why someone would just carelessly toss items into a rectangular, canvas bag instead of stacking them neatly so that everything fits into the compartment.

Perhaps there is an overall lack of training when it comes to bagging groceries, so here are 8 simple rules to bagging my groceries:

  1. Don't shove items into the bag.  This is now MY property; treat it with some respect. 
  2. Don't over-stuff.  I'm giving you more bags than you will ever need.
  3. Pack the heaviest and most durable items first.  I know this sounds rudimentary, but you'd be surprised.
  4. Balance the bag.  Don't put all the heavy stuff in one bag and not all on one side in a bag.  Distribute the weight evenly.  Again, I'm giving you plenty to work with.
  5. Don't lay anything on it's side.  It's on the shelf in a specific position for a specific reason.
  6. Pack like items in bags to avoid cross-contamination.  Meat in one bag, veggies in another bag, cleaning supplies in another bag, etc.
  7. Put all refrigerated items in one bag.  This not only helps keep them cold but will also prevent cardboard boxes from getting soggy.  It also helps with unbagging the groceries once you get home.
  8. Separate and sort the items before bagging, unless your customer is me because I've already gone to the trouble of sorting all the items on the conveyor belt for you.

Bagging groceries isn't an art form.  It simply takes brains.  Although when you do it correctly, you can win some cabbage, as well as my respect and admiration.