Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Look It Up...Part II

“Go Look It Up” it yells.
A sound I cannot silence.
My brain demands to be fed
more than three times a day.

I try to vary its intellectual intake
utilizing an array of information.
A cacophony of ideas for brain cells
which like to have its ears tickled as well.

I love the sound of words.
The way they dance and play.
How a slip of the tongue one day
might find its proper place the next.

Reader Me tries to literally hear an author speak.
Screamer, Storyteller, Whispering confidant.
The emotional dialect lies between the lines.
My job is to discover who is at play.

For me, words are a playground which I
climb around until I understand them all.
And when I’m stumped, I ask for help.
So Shug, dear poet, what the hell is “smurry”?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Go Look It Up!

When I was a child with a question, and I had many, my Mom's favorite reply was, "Go look it up." Rather than believe Mom just didn't know, I became fascinated that there were books which held all the knowledge I was seeking. The Dictionary and Encyclopedia became my cohorts in learning the secrets of the world. And we kept Mom in the loop. Whatever answer I learned, I'd come back and share with her...as long as it didn't interfere with fixing dinner when I was hungry.

"Go Look It Up" is a habit I never broke. Thank heaven. It seems to be the fuel for my curiosity, this knowledge that what I don't know, I can find out. Sure, some answers take longer to uncover than others, but I enjoy the hunt. I find it encouraging that scientists are now pushing the theory that a brain kept active, stays active longer...right into old age. Since I'm aiming for 100 birthdays, that's good to know. And with an innate sense of curiosity, I won't have to buy one of those computer "Brain Game" toys to keep me sharp.

I've found myself silently trying to instill that same sense of wonder in the kids I work with in the After School program. They of the "push-a-button-and-find-out generation who need 30 second answers in 60 second sound bites prefer I just tell them the answer. No, of course I don't. I occasionally point out the page containing the answer, but I make them dig. I realized what a foreign concept this was when one of them asked for help in math one day. It's been a while since it was mandatory for me to know the difference between an "acute" and an "obtuse" angle. I asked them to give me a definition. They couldn't. I asked what the teacher had taught them. Shrugged shoulders. Of course no one had a math book. So I told them to give me a minute while I grabbed the Big Yellow Dictionary. One of them pointed out that answers to "Math" questions would not be in a book of words.

I just loved the looks on their faces when I proved that theory wrong. [And my ego was relieved to know that my knowledge of angles wasn't as far off as I feared]. One of them asked how I knew to do such a thing and I shared the story about Mom. I reminded them that looking up the answers to everyday things was how you learn. And that if you're really smart, you'll never stop trying to learn. The next day we were talking about sharks and one kid asked how many types there were. Yes, I said it. But I phrased it as "Let's go look it up," because we did so together. Last week I heard two kids talking about something they weren't sure of. One of the kids finally said, "Let's go get the book", which is how they refer to the encyclopedias. They're now aware those volumes aren't merely for looks but actually hold answers...if you remember to pick the book that has the same letter as the thing you're looking up.

Last night I caught the tale end of a televised interview with an actor who used the word "minuscule". The Interviewer looked puzzled, then butted in and asked, "What's that?" I give the actor credit, he did not get upset or mock the man, but simply gave him a definition. The Interviewer nodded and said, "Hmm, I didn't know that." At that point I had four rapid fire thoughts:

You've got to be kidding! (Then again, are Movie Critics really journalists?)
You know, Text messaging is ruining Americans' ability to use big words.
Well, at least the guy had the nerve to ask.
Dude...go look it up!

The Interviewer was maybe 25. I figure if he starts looking stuff up now, his brain should be fine when he reaches old age. And he won't have to cough up money for a computer gizmo aimed at making Baby Boomers believe they can't think without owning one.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ending a Business Relationship

I'm sure everyone in the world has a credit card story that set their teeth on edge and made others nod in agreement. Today was my turn and I severed our relationship with said company.


I will be kind and not mention the company in question, only their ridiculous policy. If you pay off a balance which you have had for more than month, the next month they show when that payment was posted, yet hit you with Finance Charges accrued in the time it took THEM to post your payment. How in the world they won any "Customer Service Awards" is beyond me...unless someone is getting a check.

With such a company, the easiest thing to do is cancel the account. And I did. But for once I stood up and pointed out they were the only credit card company I'd ever done business with who held to such a practice. Okay, so I've only had three credit cards in my life, but my credit record shows I've never made a late payment to anyone, which should mean something in this world of easy credit. I didn't yell or scream or call them bad names. I merely enclosed my card while advising my husband would cut his up when he came home that evening.

You know, my paper shredder does "cross shredding" so the pieces were really small. I imagine a confetti shower when they open the mail.

Was it petty? Perhaps even childish? Possibly. But I feel better. And you can't put a price on that...or a finance charge.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


How does a 105 lb. chocolate lab, determined that the woman STILL sleeping in bed should be outside enjoying the 7:15 a.m. morning breeze, accomplish his goal?

He slips his nose under the covers, hooks them with this head and marches them down the bed. Thus the warm woman becomes instantly motivated to hop out of bed and chase him out the room. And while she's so close to the front door, he can't think of any reason why she shouldn't want to go outside and play.

How did this.....

Grow into the horse on the right? [He's sitting next to Dear Ol' Dad].

Sunday Morning Score: Dog - 1 Human - 0

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bump in the Road

Well, Mother Nature interfered....or intervened, depending on your point of view, with my Alzheimer Lady dilemma of "To Drive or Not to Drive...Will Anyone Ride With Her?".

Wednesday night I called this woman's granddaughter to discuss the fact I'd been told, in no uncertain terms, by one of the daughters that her Mama would never drive us to bowling again and it was my job to explain it to Mama. I knew such a conversation with the Granddaughter might actually result in that long overdue family chat. Unfortunately, Granddaughter was at the hospital...with her grandmother. And yet in spite of that, the Granddaughter's husband went out of his way to reassure ME. He asked questions about what I'd observed and laughingly agreed that I'd found the family members still in denial. But what totally caught me off guard was the fact he thanked me for caring enough to point out something was wrong when I could've just looked the other way.

Not my style. But it was nice of him to notice.

They believe at this point the woman's had a light stroke. She had another of her daughters [you know, the one I wasn't ever suppose to call..sigh] call me from the hospital with an update. Then the woman got on the phone with me herself, sounding rather chipper, considering. She actually apologized for not being able to drive to Bowling on Friday. Inwardly, I squirmed. I replied she shouldn't worry about it and instead concentrate on scoring well on her remaining "tests". She giggled. I asked if it was okay to call a couple of her friends in the group with her room number. She seemed relieved.

Relief is a funny emotion. When I told about her hospitalization, all of the bowlers expressed concern. And yet in the eyes of some, I saw relief. Self preservation is a mighty powerful motivator, but it can still turn the guilt screws when your choice is based on protecting yourself due to the declining health of another.

I hope this opens the family's eyes...and the doctor's. I think it's about time they talked about her driving. I'd certainly rather have her believe it is the doctor's choice she turn in her keys than believe her friends had turned their backs on her because they no longer felt safe to ride along. I have faith in the Granddaughter to continue to do the right thing.

But hey, Guardian Angel! Sir, if I were you, I'd take some vitamins. Considering how tough my week's been, I'm pretty sure you're worn out from just hanging around and holding me up.

Monday, October 15, 2007


...may be good for the soul but it's often hell on the one who is asked to keep the secret. I'm not a priest. I'm not even Catholic. But I abide by the rules of what goes into my ears does not pass back through my lips, especially if the word "confidential" comes into the conversation.

Secret keeping is a tricky minefield that isn't listed under OSHA's Occupational Hazards guidelines.

I've recently discovered one of my senior citizens has Alzheimer's. No, not through a self confession. By accident. The discovery came by way of a telephoned confession by another senior, who'd accidentally unearthed the truth by simply remarking the lady in question was acting oddly. She was concerned because I am "in charge" and this condition has been present for 2 years...and we were all none the wiser. She asked for permission to share the secret with me so I could be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary. But seniors are often forgetful. Sometimes they make ME forgetful, my mind often reeling with all their shared secrets and doctor appointments. It's hard to see a problem when the clues are the norm for their age group.

Sadly, this lady's husband died of a combination of medical problems and smack dab in the middle of them all was early onset Alzheimer's. But I've been seeing signs for a month now. Disturbing ones that made me wonder, "Didn't I just answer that question five minutes ago? Her usual aversion to loud people has evolved into sticking her fingers in her ears and telling people to shut up. Grumpy has turned into unexpected, angry outbursts. Last week a gentleman approached the lady to apologize for agitating her, even if he wasn't sure how merely talking to her had done so. She balled up her fist and hit him in the arm, huffing, "Don't talk to me!" If he was confused before, the right jab was an exclamation point he didn't comprehend.

From the looks of the witness' faces, he wasn't alone.

There comes a time when a secret kept can become dangerous. I contacted the nurse who's taken the group's blood pressure once a month...for the last 14 years. Her advice was to contact the family member I felt most comfortable with and ask how [hopefully] the family was handling it. Rather than chose one of her three daughters [a potential nightmare in itself beginning with, "Why did you pick HER instead of me?"] I choose a granddaughter who's a nurse. Good choice. She has this woman's POA. She listened politely as I rattled off, as kindly as possible, glaringly odd behavioral changes. The bad news was, the family hasn't really had that sit down talk that begins, "Mom, life is changing and so are you." The good news was knowing she was listening to what I had to say instead of labeling me as some nosy busybody. She agreed it was time for the family to have that uncomfortable sit down chat before someone got hurt.

This woman has driven several of us to bowling for seven years now. Her driving has become a little erratic of late, which we chalked up to her new vehicle. You know the feeling....brakes that are too touchy, jack rabbit starts until you comprehend how your new car works. With my new knowledge I will admit to reluctantly getting into the car last week for that ride. My poor guardian angel must be getting really tired at this point. The woman pulled out in front of a car but what scared me most was the inherent urge to speed up and get out of the way wasn't there. She commented on the car appearing out of nowhere and the gentleman in the front seat suggested we move out of it's way. She did...with the speed of a tortoise. Since then, I've been trying to decide how to suggest someone else drive without making her angry.

Tonight one of her daughters called to tell me they were keeping an eye on things. When she advised the family felt the woman was still okay to drive, I had to disagree. Politely, yet firmly. Daughter immediately dismissed the incident. The blame was placed on too many people talking in the car. I offered it was the second time in less than a month and shared a few more hair raising driving problems. The replies all came back to us being the problem: we're too noisy, too distracting. However, I was told in no uncertain terms that I would find a solution to the drive to the bowling alley which does not involve her mother...or the word Alzheimer's. Sigh.

I asked if the family had discussed anything with this woman. They still have not. Their misguided logic dictates that because they have not seen what I have, there is no reason to talk with her until a later date. I hope they don't get around to it too late. At the moment it appears that we who are witnessing a slow personality meltdown are wrong to notice.

I did not share that I'd talked to a granddaughter. Grown daughters do not appreciate it when you reach down to the next generation to discuss the health and welfare of their own mother. But the granddaughter understood when I called to ask for guidance that I wasn't being judgmental. No, I was requesting a road map to aid me on this journey.

The road ahead is tough. And a good secret keeper knows the difference in keeping a secret and withholding information in the face of impending disaster. The time has come to offer gently, "Don't you think it's my turn to play your chauffeur?"

If I do it right, maybe my arm will survive and I'll still be able to bowl.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Choking on Red Tape

Today is one of those days I'd like to find the guy who coined the phrase, "Your government...working for you!" Well, not if you try to utilize their websites to talk to anyone. You can look, but you can't get real help. You can only receive their three patented answers: [1] Look at FAQ [2] Are you sure you checked our FAQ section? [3] No, you can't do that here.

Maybe Slogan Guy is also the one who initiated the Red Tape Waltz.

Auntie, for whom I have a Power of Attorney since her stroke in 2000, moved from an assisted living facility to a nursing home. Most of her mail comes to me, which isn't a problem. Only a few pieces, like Social Security don't. For the most part that's not a problem as her check is Direct Deposit and I don't have to deal with them first hand. Recently a situation arose where I discovered the easiest solution was a change of address. Silly me contacted Social Security, via their website, to change her address. You're rolling your eyes already, aren't you? Finding the most formidable legal warning of what they would do to me if I wasn't actually her, I backed away. Slowly....fighting the urge to look over my shoulder and see if someone from the Federal Government was about to kick down my door and drag me away from the computer. I suggest all terrorists apply for a card...they'd quickly give up and find another country to torture that doesn't torture it's only citizens for trying to follow policy.

But I digress.

So I "contacted" the Social Security by e-mail and explained the situation. Their terse reply, after asking if I'd checked the FAQ section, was that THEY do not recognize a POA. Hmm, so what's legal for everyone else doesn't apply to them? They did offer to allow me to stand in line for hours on end at my local SS office to apply for their own very special "This person legally represents a family member" designation. I'm pretty sure auntie's lawyer prepared a legally sound POA. I kindly declined...by not replying or checking the FAQ section.

I'd been able to skip the Change of Address postal route by personally contacting most of the individuals who contact her via mail with a simple request that they send her mail straight to me. I provided a couple of copies of the POA but that's fine...I have nothing to hide. In fact, the reason we took this route was to get her name off the mailing list of every catalog company who has ever produced something for mass consumption. She was on a first name basis with the UPS guy at her old residence. I get the bright idea I'll simply change her address online at the USPS site. You're shaking your head already, aren't you?

It was so quick. So easy. Took only seconds to type in the "Old" and present the "New" information. At the push of a button her mail, and possibly 100 new catalogs, would jet toward the proper address at the nursing home. Hey, I don't want all those catalogs in my mailbox...my mailman still likes me. I hit "Send", convinced I had utilized one government agency to thwart the other.

Wrong. Evidently, there's a conspiracy.

I was advised by the website that I was not allowed to have mail for an Individual sent to a business address. You know you can't win when your relative moves from an assisted living facility [listed as a Business by the USPS] to a nursing home which is listed as...say it with me...a Business. I hit the "Contact Us" button, explained the situation and waited.

At least it didn't take them 2 days, like their website advised. No, it took about 2 hours to let me know that according to their data base, the addresses I was trying to use belonged to businesses and I couldn't do that online. I would need to actually get in a car and travel to my local post office and handle it in person.

I should've just started there to begin with. After all, the guy at my local post office is a PERSON who likes People and has the audacity to be both helpful and charming. I'm sure the USPS would fire him if they had a clue, but I have no plans to "Contact Us" to share that fact. I just hope I don't try to hug him when he helps me do the right thing. I'm sure there's a horrible penalty for actually touching a federal government employee.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Culture Shock

In our small town, it's not unusual to see folks riding with a dog in the back of their truck or one in the car. It's the south. Okay, so I do get a little extra attention at the sight of our two chocolate labs hanging their heads out of opposite windows in the backseat. With all those ears flapping in the breeze, it's a wonder we don't take flight.

There is a section of town where my doggy duo and I draw the most stares, mostly cause the Brothers are walking their pitbulls down the sidewalk. I always think the pitbulls look jealous because my dogs have a chauffeur.

Due to my eclectic musical tastes, there's no telling what will be drifting through the windows of my car but I can always tell when it's a hit. Number one, it's never Country [with all due respect to that genre] so the Brothers usually nod in recognition as I pass by. I nod back. Occasionally it's music with a Latin beat and I've seen someone do an appreciative step or two as they stroll down the sidewalk. Sunday, I confounded all of them.

Imagine, if you will, a jeep driven by a small white woman with two large chocolate labs happily allowing the wind to blow through their ears. The light turns red. The music, a duet actually, has a lively beat and the driver is trying not to dance in her seat. When the light turns green, she slowly passes a group of pitbull walkers on the sidewalk. The unmistakable sound of Stevie Wonder on harmonica fills the air and one of the Brothers begins to nod with the tempo. And then Stevie, with his unique voice, begins to sing...

...in Italian.

Looking in my rear view mirror I see a Brother's head snap around as he mouths, "What the?!?"

I grin in spite of myself. Wonder's duet is with Andrea Bocelli and the whole thing is in Italian. I sing along as my dogs nod at the pitbull. I think the pitbull nodded back. I do wonder, however, if the Brothers will ever be able to listen to Stevie again.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Chasing Romeo

I've spent half my vacation looking for our oldest dog Smokey...the neighborhood gigolo. He must be quite the lady's man as some of the lassies have been known to follow him home.

Not this week. No, we had to locate him. It usually takes 24 hours. This time it took two days...and a tracking collar placed on his son, which led hubby straight to the love nest. I believe Smokey thought it was about time his chauffeur had arrived. Sigh.

Now for the record, I'm not one of those people who dress up dogs because I think they need to look fashionable. I could never get that bored. Ever. I create a calendar for hubby's archery shop each year and Smokey is the monthly pin up. His customers actually complained one year when I couldn't get the supplies for the calendar until February. Most months Smokey's just himself utilizing a variety of expressions. But for a couple of months on the calendar...well, his expression in the photo below pretty much tells you what he thinks of it all. When he sees a camera, he starts looking for an exit. :)

That said, I'm not sure if this photo is more a pre-Halloween decoration
or the truth. :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Last Rose of Summer

I trimmed my climbing rose yesterday. It's a Don Juan, aptly named for it's sweet fragrance that's unforgettable. Okay, so sentimental fool that I am, it's also the first rose hubby ever picked for me when I was a mere sweet 16. I actually still have the original, pressed between the pages of a book.

I remember two things about that rose: it had the most wonderful aroma...and 17 year old someday future hubby got yelled at...because he'd snitched the first bloom from his Dad's beloved roses. Without permission. His Dad softened up a bit when he found out it was for me. After that it became a family joke. Once Dad was the one who picked the Don Juan and gifted it to me.

There were a few buds still left and they looked too forlorn lying in the pile of clippings. Yes, the sentimental scooped them up and brought them inside. I chose one to keep me company at the computer. Now I have a pair of Don Juans watching over me...both were given to me by hubby.

And yes, those are hearts on his shorts. :)