Determination, Resolve. And Cheating.

By the end of today’s post, I hope to weave together three disparate thoughts about my life and my past:

  1. My Mother told me that my Uncle Jim, the millionaire, began each day with a glass of tomato juice and some cookies.
  2. When my Mother ate lunch, she used a dish towel as a napkin.
  3. Yesterday my internist confirmed that I had gained weight over the last 15 months. No shit Sherlock. She also ordered a cholesterol test. To prepare for the result, I preemptively ate a donut, a cookie, two chocolate-covered pretzels (dyed purple in honor of Prince–how could I refuse? Home town hero and all (let’s set aside the opiate addiction)), then made a special stop for a bag of Wavy Lays potato chips.

Last things first. I am not that big a salty snack gal but yet today I rationalized a special stop at the gas station to get a bag of Wavy Lays. Not the lunch-bag size — laughably because it seemed too large — but the “family size.” By the time I dug out the $4.59 for the family size, I had rationalized that I was really buying said Lays for “the family” — which would be me and my husband.

They were sooooo tempting that I dug into them on the way home. In fact, by the time I pulled into the driveway, I was nearly sick of them. But I haven’t yet admitted the worst part…

I justified the purchase because I had to stop at the gas station to buy gas so why not throw in a bag of Wavy Lays for good measure? Alas, when I exited the store and returned to the pump, I noted that, in my haste, I had not properly prompted the pump, thus had no gas, but a sad gas nozzle hanging out of my vehicle awaiting instruction. Because I was certain others would stare if I started the dispensation of gas after I had lolly-gagged in the store choosing my chips, I elected to give the impression that I had filled up and had incidentally purchased the Wavy Lays. (Did anyone notice the $00.000 on the pump? I think not. Surely not.) I drove off, still at half-tank, steering and ripping into my Wavy Lays with admirable coordination.

Good thing, because but a few hours later, I got the email from the internist–your cholesterol would make a blind man blush (or something to that effect). Shit.

With this awful news, I trudged into the kitchen to pour myself a glass of white wine and snack on last night’s doggy bag (a delightfully indulgent truffle-cream-sauced pasta). I think about the need for a napkin but think, Fuck No! I AM GOING TO USE A GOD-DAMN DISH TOWEL. Praise be God and my Mother.

Which brings me to Uncle Jim–the one who began in Cannelton, Indiana (perpetual victim of Ohio River floods)–who became a — (drum roll please) — MILLIONAIRE.

[Aside: Who wants to be a millionaire? Not me, I just want to be the heir of one. Alas, Uncle Jim’s widow died at age 106, 6 years ago and I’ve still not heard from her lawyers …]

But let us return to UJ (Uncle Jim), whom I never remember meeting because he was cold, hard dead before I started kindergarten but who was, nonetheless, held up as the family member who preserved, made good. A millionaire, a philanthropist. Great sense of humor. And best of all — HAD TOMATO JUICE AND COOKIES FOR BREAKFAST!!

Which brings me to the obvious question… Am I — donut plus chocolate-covered, dyed-purple-to-honor Prince pretzels, plus Wavy Lays — really just a modern day millionaire in the making?


I had my first taste of Comcast today. Generally I delegate those calls (and any to the IRS) to my husband because he is infinitely better natured than I (or maybe than me – I wonder about but am feeling too raw to resolve the grammar issue. IF I had Internet service, I could commune with Grammar Girl and figure it out. Alas, I don’t.)


For starters—and by that I mean for the first hour—I attempted to call and resolve my intermittent Internet issue.


I called the customer support # provided and punched in all sorts of numbers—you know the drill–#1 for English, the last 4 of the SSN. I am not sure if the subject SSN is mine or my husband’s. On the first call, I report his, then, for good measure, on my second call, I cite mine.


I press #2 which indicates I do NOT want to complete a customer support survey at the conclusion of my call because I know I will use bad words if I do. The automated voice asks why I am calling. I tell it. It “didn’t get that” so I tell it louder. No dice. Once more it “didn’t get that.” I want to scream, “Clean the wax out of your ears” but I know it has no ears, much less wax. I now shout any and all words synonomous with intermittent Internet service. Roget would be proud. It tells me to wait. I do. Then it tells me I need to call another number.


I do. And I repeat all of the above but guess what? At the end of my regurgitation of information, it tells me this number is out of service but helpfully recommends a third.


I call the the third. We go through the same identifying info. For the third time, I assure them I don’t want to complete a customer service survey at the conclusion of the call, and finally get a very sunny individual who tells me all is well with my Internet service. Au contraire. Although I remind her that the problem is not NO service, but intermittent and slow service, she continues to happily report that I currently have an Internet connection.


I give up and go to the online chat option. Linda is assigned to me; I am cranky. Linda asks questions; I am snide. But over the course of several minutes and multiple trips to the basement to report on modem qualities, Linda establishes that my Internet connection is “less than optimal.”


AHHHH. I feel vindicated. Linda says she will refresh something. I grow excited. The Internet goes out, then reappears, apparently refreshed. I grow confident. She then tells me I must trundle back downstairs and stick a “non-metal” object into the reset “slot” to reset. I am surprised and disappointed that a refresh standing alone was not enough, but I can taste success so I am willing, although concerned. I asked what kind of object she has in mind. She keeps her cards close to the vest. “Whatever fits.” Curiousity alone drives me out of my chair, down to the basement to see the aforementioned slot. As I travel, I wonder—bigger than a bread box? Like a credit card? Is that metal? Oh I know it is not, but what of the strip? Is that metal-like? Will I be electrified as a result of Linda’s instruction? Maybe the reset calls for a playing card. A knife? NO, NO! A KNIFE IS METAL. Suddenly it seems like all stickable objects in our home are metal. How can this be? In this age of plastic, surely we must have a plastic something we can use to reset?


I have now reached the modem. I scan the backside for the reset “slot.”


What the hell? This is no slot. This is a hole about the size of a large paper clip tip. NO, NO!!! METAL!!! A pen? NO, NO. METAL! My mind is blank. I panic that Linda is headed home. I must act fast! I briefly consider getting a step stool to access the 300 wooden skewers I bought on three separate 100-skewer purchasing occassions thinking I would skewer things. I just mentioned them the other day to my sister and we agreed that this summer at the lake breakfast, lunch, and dinner must be “on-a-stick” to address my glut of wooden skewers.


Time is of the essence, however, so I grab a pencil and stab it into the reset “slot.”


I kill our Internet connection. Success? Linda is gone now, our chat “interrupted.”


I say bad words. I wait for the Set after the Reset, but in vain. I try yet another 800 #. My representative observes that I have no service. No shit, Sherlock.


The worst thing wasn’t that I called to complain of intermittent service and after three calls and one online chat, it was determined by the Gods of Comcast that I DO in fact have a problem and now, in fact, I have no service whatsoever. The worst part is the script. At each turn, I grew more irritated.


Luckily, I have a verbatim transcript of my interrupted online chat available to rant on.


Here are some examples:

Linda: Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support.

I am glad Linda is grateful, because I am feeling like I’ve made more effort than one should have to make to get my Internet service working better.

Linda: Thanks for contacting Comcast! I look forward to helping you today.

I feel like we have already established how grateful she is that I have contacted Comcast. If she knew how crabby I am, she would not be looking forward to helping me today.

Linda: I’m sorry to learn that your internet connection is not stable, Nancy.

In addition to being grateful, Linda is sorry. Maybe Linda needs to talk to a therapist and refer me to someone who has less emotional investment in me and my service and more technical knowledge. Linda doesn’t know the half of it. My sanity, as well as my Internet connect, are now unstable.

Linda: Rest assured I will do everything within my means to address your concern today.

This doesn’t give me any comfort whatsoever. Without knowing more about Linda, “everything within” her means, is an empty assurance. Right now I feel like nothing is within her means except her over-empathy with my situation.

Linda: I’ll be asking you a series of questions regarding your connection so that we can better resolve this concern, will that be okay?

I am tempted to say “no” just to test Linda’s emotional mettle. Why is she instructed to ask me this? Do some people say, “No, I will mime my connection issues”???

Linda: To help us isolate the cause of the issue, would it be fine to ask you a few questions?

Although I assured Linda previously that I was okay being asked a series of questions, she now wants to know about “a few questions.” I want to explore whether the few are part of the series or are separate. Are they a separe series? Or just separate individual questions.


Tomorrow Mr. Comcast will visit between 10 am and noon. I will let you know.





May Crowning

The topic of today’s post–long overdue–is May Crowning. And being that it is nearly October, you probably thought I was going to chat with you about apple orchards or Halloween. Ha! I have no October Catholic school memories etched into my brain. All Souls Day is scarcely the stuff of memories.

No, Catholic School + seasons for me only results in a few writing topics:

  1. Stations of the Cross during Lent
  2. May Crowning

Both are more memorable than Christmas and all the holy days of obligation combined because they both represent unrelenting suffering. Let me begin with May Crowning and the associated suffering, which continues to this day.

Despite the fact that the May Crowning procedure was the same every year, we practiced. And practiced. And practiced. And practiced. E_V_E_R_Y  D_A_M_N  Y_E_A_R. Talk about taking the joy out of those first spring days in Chicago . . .

My Catholic grade school was situated on Cumberland, the speedway of the Chicago suburb where I grew up. The school was located on the west side of Cumberland, but the playground was located on the east side.

A short aside: The “playground” to which I referred in the previous paragraph was really a parking lot. It had no play features whatsoever. I have a vague memory that about the time I graduated, “they” spray painted a few hopscotch outlines on the pavement, but that was it. The south half was designated the girl’s half, and the north, the boy’s. God forbid we play in the same half. Heavens no! In fact the ONLY time I ventured into the boy’s half was when my grade was assigned a north-half location for May Crowning. It goes without saying that the statue of Mary was on the girl’s half–one of the few privileges the Catholic Church extended to females of the era. Naturally we could NOT be altar boys. HELLO–the title is “Altar BOY.” The roles available to me were

  1. Reader at daily Mass (Although I signed up, each time I was called, I feigned illness because I was petrified. Brilliant strategy–I got credit for volunteering but never exhausted my emotional capital.)
  2. May Crowner–the 8th-grade GIRL who actually got to put the crown on flowers on Mary’s head (in the south half of the parking lot).

I had many, many years to prepare due to the abundance of May Crowning practices.

A couple of absolutes re practices:

  1. They always occurred on the most unseasonably warm days in May prior to the actual Crowning.
  2. They always occurred in the afternoon, when the sun was beating down.

The first step was getting every room in every grade (3 rooms per grade,  24 rooms @ approximately 30 kids per room) to “line up” and “file out” (“double-file”) of the school  to the sidewalk on the east side of Cumberland. Note: “Double-file” meant that we had a partner; if he/she was absent (lucky dog), God help the poor fool who filled in the space. NO, NO, NO! You leave a space for your absent classmate and process, silently and orderly from the classroom door, down the hall, down the stairs (if you had “graduated” to the grades located upstairs), to the exit, down the school sidewalk to the sidewalk along the west side of Cumberland, to the crosswalk. And for GOD’s SAKE!! DON’T RUSH!!! Some of my fool classmates would hurry along. HELLO??? It is a P-R-O-C-E-S-S-I-O-N for God’s sake. Stately. Calculated, Dignified. Slow. Reverent.

In fact, the only interruption in the procession was the walk light at Cumberland and Granville.

So it went like this:

Process, process, process. STOP (Don’t Walk sign has stopped the advance.)

Process, process, process. STOP (Don’t Walk sign has stopped the advance.)

Process  Process, process, process. STOP (Don’t Walk sign has stopped the advance.)

Process  Process, process, process. STOP (Don’t Walk sign has stopped the advance.)

Let me remind you again of the sun beating down and draw your attention to the fact that the girls wore nylon blouses and wool jumpers. I remember thinking how happy I’d be to pass out as opposed to sweat, process, stop. Sweat, process, stop. And so on.

When all 800+ of us had processed until we’d sweat every ounce of water ingested over the winter AND crossed Cumberland with the “Walk” light, we lined up on the asphalt parking lot according to grade. Of course, the 8th grade was closest to the statue of Mary, because, as I have already hinted, the Crowner is an 8th grade girl and will emerge at the proper time and place the crown on Mary. What that means is that for grades 1-7, after processing to the death and crossing with the light, we must then process PAST Mary to take our place in the north half of the parking lot.

In reality I don’t know how long we processed and practiced processing, but I can tell you that from my perspective, it took several days, made still longer by the fools who didn’t leave a space for a missing classmate and hurried ahead thereby screwing up the whole damn organization for the rest of us. Thank God our teachers/nuns were observant and at the ready to stop and correct the procession when someone’s neglect fouled it up.

At last. In place. In the parking lot. On the east side of Cumberland. Missing partners accounted for, all crossed with the “Walk” light.

Before we go forward, I feel compelled to say that I NEVER envisioned myself as Crowner. It only took a few years of practice for me to recognize that the Crowner would be Mary F.

For starters, her name was Mary. (Thanks for nothing, Mom and Dad . . . Nancy???? I think not. NO ONE named NANCY would be selected to crown Mary.) And I was okay with that. Mary looked beatific, was popular, reasonably smart, and well-behaved. Fit the bill in my book.

Now, I return to the parking lot where we are in place and it is time to practice the May Crowning songs. We must practice every verse, every year, although the soundtrack never varies. There are a couple of run-up tunes . . . the most effortful being one whose chorus was, “Ave, Ave, Ave Maria” but sung like:


Imagine a bit out of key and RRRRRR part requiring one’s voice to go from the lowest possible note singable by a human to one above the highest note singable by a human.

Then, it is time for the piece de resistance: “Bring Flowers of the Rarest.”

It started off slow:

Bring flow’rs of the fairest,
Bring flow’rs of the rarest,
From garden and woodland
And hillside and vale;
Our full hearts are swelling,
Our Glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest
Rose of the vale.

But then, kicked into the main event:

O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May,
O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May.

Then we processed back: South through the parking lot. Turned west. Waited at the light. Walk sign. Processed across Cumberland, turned north, continued processing north til one (and one’s partner) arrived at the school sidewalk. Turned west. Processed into school.

Every year.

Practices upon practices.

Years upon years.

Now, at long last,  it is my 8th grade year. This is it. The pinnacle.

But who is chosen as the Crowner? Mary F? NO!!!! Suzanne D. WHAT?????????

The name “Suzanne” is no better than “Nancy.” Both are a far cry from Mary, not even an “Ann” or a “Joan” or a “Therese.” Sure, Suzanne had flowing blond ringlets, but What the hell? Where are the standards?????????

I do remember that Suzanne shed a tear, which admittedly was a nice touch. Nonetheless, I was let down. Really let down, disappointed, perhaps even aghast. After years and years, hours and hours, sweaty blouses upon sweaty blouses, “they” picked the wrong person to be Crowner.


I am now 56 years old. I never expected nor wanted to be Crowner. Nor an altar boy. Nor a reader. But golly by golly, all that time in grades 1 through 7 processing and sweating, processing and sweating some more and some more–not to mention waiting for the “Walk” sign. All for a dreadful miscarriage of justice and judgment.

opportunity of a lifetime

Everyone likely has an opportunity of a lifetime. The challenge is recognizing it as such and capitalizing on it.

For example, my sister got into a kerfuffle with an airline over the cost of her ticket. The details are unimportant. What IS important is that she was able to recognize and seize on an important opportunity, in fact, in all likelihood, the opportunity of a lifetime.

You see, once she was irritated, she demanded to talk to a customer service representative. And she was connected with one named Buster. Perfect. Excellent. Once he regurgitated the company spiel re cost of one-way v. round-trip flights, she was able to say, “Listen Buster . . . ”

Like I said, what an opportunity.

What do snow and adverbs have in common?

I know, I know. I’ve neglected you. It is not that I haven’t thought of “putting pen to paper,” rather every time I’ve considered it, I have filtered myself. (“I can’t write THAT! What if X reads it . . . “) You see? These are the problems of having a readership of a half dozen people.

So, this evening I decided I must write something. Let’s dispense with writing about the weather because it sucks. That is not a word I use often, rather it has crept into my vernacular having spent several years with younger people. But really, it is the word of the hour. It is April 22 and we are undergoing yet another major snowstorm. Really I don’t care about the snow or even the temperature, but the gray will do me in. Please Lord, a little sun is all I ask.

I have been thinking a lot about grammar lately. (Am now probably down to three readers.) In my freelance editing life, I am editing test questions for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Hope they know what an adverbial phrase is because I am not so sure. At the same time I am tutoring foreign speakers. In fact, I went hog wild and said I would help a Spanish speaker prepare for the GED. I taught her to write a 5-paragraph essay. She did a bang-up job, but now I need to tackle grammar. The organization is there, the content, but damn gerunds to hell.

My mother could wring her hands like the best of the Irish, and she wrung them plenty over the fact that I was never taught to diagram sentences. A horrible shortcoming. I distinctly remember weeping in grade school about my inability to identify adverbs. My mother assured me that knowledge would come with time.

Well, Mom, I am 54, it is snowing like crazy, and I don’t know how to diagram sentences. Life sucks.

“noise for the sake of noise”

I must credit my mother, not only for the title of this post, but for the concept. I will admit that as a young person, I did not understand her gripe, but now, at 54, I am with her — completely. At the risk of sounding like Andy Rooney . . .

What is with the nonstop music? Bad enough we had elevator music, but now stores have music, restaurants have music, malls have music, games have music. You can’t hear any conversation, much less hear yourself think.

do not go to a restaurant to listen to a CD. If I wanted to do that, I would have stayed home with earphones stuck in my ears. I came to 1. eat and 2. socialize and that stupid music makes both difficult (oh, okay, I can eat while the music blares.)

Which brings me to sporting events. What if one could go to a baseball game and the only thing to do was watch baseball? No rockin’ tunes, no t-shirts cannons, no free pizzas based on your seat or row, the number of walks or runs or score differential. No kiss cam, no individual running around in a costume acting stupid.

When we got annoyingly loud, my Mom complained that we were making “noise for the sake of noise.” We snickered but I am not snickering anymore. Bring on the silence.

my dog was a horse

It is quite clear to me, that in a former life, Hunter, my dog, was a horse.

The evidence is as follows:

  1. He rears up on his hind legs to greet people. I do not mean he jumps on them. Yes, this happens but he also just rears up, like an over-zealous uncle who screams, “WELCOME.”
  2. He rears up and uses his front paws to knock the leash from my hands when he is unhappy about my directional decisions. “NO, NO, NOT THAT WAY. I DO NOT WANT TO GO THAT WAY.”

Every time he executes his horse-move, I am reminded of one of the illustrations in my childhood copy of Black Beauty. (I believe it was when she (he?) had to be blindfolded because of a fire in the stable, but this image will do.)

black beauty

black beauty (futurely known as Hunter)

I liked BB (Black Beauty), Flicka was my friend, and I didn’t think Mr. Ed was a stupid show. In fact, I “rode” a chair in our living room, as well as some old tires in the backyard. These horses had various names, but all were loyal to a fault, initially wild beyond compare, but tamed by moi.

I was always torn between owning Flicka v. Lassie so I am grateful that in my old age, I have a dog who thinks he is a horse.

my life as a seamstress

Growing up, I longed to sew and made many efforts to further my dream.

  • I asked for and received a toy sewing machine for Christmas. Based on the television advertisement, I was certain I would create masterpieces in no time whatsoever.
  • A few years later, I asked my Aunt Mary to tutor me. She did, but please note that her claim to fame was sewing rectangular cloth bandages for some do-good organization. She did, however, own a sewing machine, circa 1916.
  • Yet later, I enrolled in classes at the uptown Singer store with my friend Carolyn. On the first day my teacher announced that we would all enter our creations in the Stylemaker’s Contest at the end of the course. She would regret that decision.
  • Finally, I took a sewing unit in home ec class in summer school. Other than the beach cover-up I made (detailed below), the most memorable moment was when I cut the t-shirt i was wearing right along with the fabric for my beach cover-up.

My efforts resulted in a couple of memorable creations:

  • I chose to make a pair of shorts under my Aunt Mary’s tutelage. The fabric featured red, white, and blue patriotic stripes, and with good luck, I was hoping to have them ready by 4th of July. Alas I missed the deadline which was just as well because when completed they were very, very tight. All right, I could not get them beyond my thighs.
  • For my Stylemaker’s contest entry, I also chose a patriotic theme but figured shorts were a problem, so went with a pattern for a “shift.” (I believe “shift” is a Latin term for the easiest possible dress to sew.) Once again, by the end, my efforts resulted in something way too small. I need to make clear to my readers, that at this point in my life, I was waif-like in appearance, so my size was not the issue. I believe the issue was that the whole pinning and measuring seemed laborious. Certain “I knew better,” I often went rogue on the fabric cutting. Although I was able to struggle into the dress, it was very, very short, even in a days of mini-skirts. When I exited the dressing room in the back of the Singer store, my teacher was stunned. Carolyn laughed until she cried.
  • You may think I was deterred but no, I made yet one more attempt. In middle school home ec class, I set my sights on a beach coverup, also striped. I was extremely generous with the fabric, learning from the earlier shorts and dress debacles. When finished, the cover-up was both ugly and uncomfortable. On the upside I was able to put it one without cutting off my circulation. Once donned, I realized how itchy and uncomfortable it was, so decided to wash it to “soften it up.” At the end of the wash cycle, I retrieved it, both pieces, front and back, which had come unstitched in the washing machine.

Sewing is not in God’s plan for me.

self-do not help

Today’s post belongs in the self-do not help section. This section is located adjacent to self-help.

Last night I had a wonderful four hours of sleep then woke to spend an hour of so honing my skill of worrying. I worry best about those things which I cannot control, which, at 4:00 am, seem perfect topics.

One of my unique skills is to take any situation and work it into an awful outcome. Often I am able to come up with a couple alternates as well. On a lucky night, I am able to identify a critical role I played in the disastrous outcome.

I do not worry about world events, even local events, rather restrict my efforts to situations involving those I care about. This is handy because along with panicking I also feel guilty for my role in the outcome that I have constructed out of whole cloth. (Note: This is the only thing I will ever construct out of whole cloth despite several efforts to learn how to sew. These efforts will need to be detailed in another post.)

Last night I followed the advice of every women’s magazine I’ve ever read and got up to read. Did I choose some light reading? No, sir, I went right to my laptop and used the Internet to not only enlarge the possibilities of crises but their dire outcome.

I woke this morning, groggy, and quickly slap myself around for being up in the middle of the night. Upon reflection, I am reminded that all I spent time on is either out of my control or not likely to end in disaster.

So why did I do it? My mother. This is when I like to blame someone else, and my mother was nothing if not a Grade-A worrier.

I console myself knowing that, at least in my children’s minds, I will experience eternal life, because they will think of me whenever they spend a night tossing and turning.

medical terminology

As a crossword devotee I am familiar with the “medical suffix” clue (i.e., -itis [as in “arthritis”], -osis [as in halitosis] etc.) See Mr. Wikepedia for more. And I am impressed by large, complicated, hard-to-pronounce illnesses. We all die sometime. Would your rather go due to a heart attack or due to a bad case of cystoureteropyelonephritis? No contest. The obit, the wake, the funeral luncheon — all more interesting if the latter.

So today’s ramble concerns the other terms medical sorts use. The ones that make me scratch my head. Here’s a few I’ve come across . . .

1. event – The last few years of my mother’s life were miserable. She was blind, nearly deaf, couldn’t walk, didn’t know us, was confused, incontinent. You get the picture. A few days before her death, her doctor phoned and announced that my mother had suffered “an event.” Like a circus? Broadway show? I know he didn’t know exactly what happened but . . .

2. void – Anyone who has ever been in the hospital knows how anxious everyone is that you void. They even measure how much voiding you voided. Don’t think of voiding then flushing your void into the void without letting them know.

3. insult – One of my favorites. Any organ, bodily system can feel insulted. Insults may stem from another organ or system e.g., your brain feels insulted from a lack of oxygen OR can suffer an insult through some outside force e.g., my head suffered an insult when I conked it on the sidewalk. I always  imagine the affected part sulking like a child. “Fine. You do that, then I do this.” Tit for tat.

4. eliminate – This is a cousin of void. The question that always causes me pause is, “When did you last eliminate?” Eliminate what? Oh, oh, yes.  Sometimes one’s elimination is referenced as if the individual is not present. Nurse looks directly at doctor and states, “She hasn’t eliminated since last Tuesday.”

I will stay alert for other disappointing medical references and keep you posted. Please do the same.