Trivia Question for Over-60’s

Fandango’s word for today is PARODY

A song from long, long ago popped into my mind this morning. The human brain is constantly storing more data-bits and when you get past sixty there’s an incredible info-cyclone swirling around up there. You may not find the name or detail you’re specifically looking for, but all kinds of other things pop up.

The song I thought of, sung by Paul Peterson in 1962, was a parody, or spoof, on what all a woman carries in her purse. As the story goes, this fellow drives his girl home after a date and walks her to the door, hoping for a good-night kiss. (Oh, for those innocent songs again!)

But he has a long wait ahead.
“She says just a moment please. I can’t find my keys.”

So she opens her purse and proceeds to pull out all manner of things, while he laments, “But I’m standin’ here waitin’ for a goodnight kiss,
’cause she can’t find her keys.”

Now here’s your question, old time trivia fans with good memories —and NO Googling:
Can you name three things she pulled out of her purse while she was hunting for her keys?

Baking Bread the Irish Way

It’s chilly this morning: Saskatoon thermometer at 7 am read -18̊ / 0̊ F. Pookie, the youngest of our two cats, keeps wanting to go outside and see if things have improved weather-wise, but after three minutes he’s ready to come in again.

Last night I took a notion I’d like to have cinnamon buns for breakfast this morning, so I set out the ingredients before I went to bed. When I got up I mixed the dough. As it turns out, they won’t be baking until mid-morning, but we can have them for our dessert after lunch.

I’ve half an hour before they need punching down, so maybe I can reply to this morning’s prompts and tell you about how a young prairie wife acquired the skill of bread-baking.

Ragtag daily prompt: SKILL
Fandango’s word today: DISRUPT
Word of the Day prompt: WHIFF

I’m not sure where I acquired the skill of baking with yeast, because my mom taught me almost nothing about cooking. Thankfully I had a great mother-in-law who was herself an excellent cook and taught me so much about life, love, and the pursuit of good food.

Like me, Mary hadn’t been taught how to bake before she left home and found herself needing to learn after she was married. I at least watched my dad take golden loaves of bread from the oven when I was a girl, so I knew something. When it came to bread and pies, both Dad and Mom F (I was raised by my uncle and aunt) were excellent bakers, if they had the time.

Mary grew up in Guildford, England, where a baker’s wagon would come down their stree every morning. All her mother had to do was go out to the land and pick whatever baking she wanted for the family that day. After Mary and her husband, a store clerk, immigrated to Saskatchewan she tried to learn baking skills from a recipe book her mother had given her. But her bread didn’t rise, was solid as a rock, or full of holes.

Before long her baking inability was disrupting their marital bliss as well as family finances. “We NEED bread,” her husband told her one day. “Why can’t you make the stuff? It can’t be that hard.”

“I’ve never been taught. I can’t seem to succeed just reading a recipe.”

“Ask one of the neighbour women for help. They all know how.”

Mary thought about the neighbour women she’d seen out and about. They were … well… coarse. Non one she would have ever associated with in England. In Canada things were different, she knew, but she’d listened as they talked and rudely gossiped in the store and didn’t see anything to be gained in associating with them. And then to admit she couldn’t do a simple thing like bake bread? Wouldn’t that get the gossip going!

At the time they were getting a farm paper and she took note of a column offering “Homemaker Hints by Millicent” or some name like that. Women wrote in with a question, which would be printed with the senders initials and the columnist’s response. Mary got her courage up one day and sent a letter to the column, asking Millicent’s advice on baking bread.

About three weeks later she opened this paper, found Millicent’s column — and saw her letter. Oh, but…! Here was her name…and her address…printed for all the world to see. She blushed with shame. All the women in town would be laughing at her. Mary shuddered to think what her husband would say if he ever saw this.

To add insult to injury, the recipe Millicent printed in response was the same one she’d already tried. She shut the paper and tried to forget about it.

The next morning her routine was disrupted by a few hard raps on her door. Mary opened it a crack and saw Mrs Ratigan — one of those “ill-mannered” women who lived nearby. Mary had seen her bustling around town, a large, assertive Irish woman, fussing over the children around her, wiping their drippy noses and giving them a smack when they needed one.

Mary opened the door to ask…and Mrs Ratigan marched right in. She held the incriminating page from the farm paper in her hand. “Mary Watson. Wants to make bread. I read it here.” She grabbed a chair and sat down. “Nobody ever learned to bake bread out of a book. You need a mother to teach you. Where’s your mother?”

Mary recovered from her shock enough to reply. “Back in Guildford, England.”

“Fine. Leave her there. I’‘ll be your mother this morning and we’ll make bread.”

Swallowing her pride, Mary got out her ingredients and Mrs Ratigan started giving instructions. Before the morning was done she’d showed Mary how to mix and knead, how long to let the dough rise, how to test it. Mary learned how to form loaves, eliminate air bubbles, and how to bake them.

As soon as the loaves were in the oven Mary made tea. Mrs Ratigan sat at the table and watched her pour. After a few sips, she said, “The good Lord never said a person always has to have Irish coffee. There’s Irish tea, too, you know, dear.”

Mary laughed and took the hint. She got the bottle of her husband’s brandy from the cupboard and handed it to her “mother for the day”, thinking it would likely make an acceptable substitute for Irish whiskey.

Mrs Ratigan opened the bottle, took a whiff, then poured a generous smack of it into her tea. Taking a sip, she grinned and said, “If you weren’t an Anglican, I’d say you’re one of the true faith.”

Mary laughed again. She was coming to like this cheerful, motherly neighbour.

Mary poured tea and Mrs Ratigan poured out the flavouring. By the time she left there wasn’t much left of the bottle of brandy, but Mary thought her husband would forgive the loss when he saw four lovely loaves of bread and some buns waiting for him when he came home from the store.

She’d been fearful about how the women in town would talk about her and treat her once they read her letter in Millicent’s column, but things turned out for the best after all. Sharing her need actually brought her friendly smiles and greetings from the town wives and made some satisfying friendships.

Visiting with one of these new friends sometime later, Mary discussed how embarrassed she’d been when Mrs Ratigan arrived at her door waving that paper. “Now the whole town knew! I was so ashamed and just cringed to think what you’d all be saying about me.”

“Oh, you needn’t have worried. It felt like you were one of us at last.” Her friend smiled. “Besides, Mrs Ratigan informed us all that if she ever heard anyone laughing at you, she’d conk them in the nose.”

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Well, by now my cinnamon buns are in the pan, rising. The faintest whiff of cinnamon lingers in my kitchen and it will soon be a delightful fragrance. Can’t you just taste it? Almost as good as chocolate. 😉

Traces of Paranoia

We moved back to Saskatchewan from Quebec in 1998 and I soon made the acquaintance of an older lady in Saskatoon. In time she became very dear to me, though she lives in another province now. Over the time we’ve been friends I’ve had lots of fun visits with her. We went out for coffee often and I helped her figure out various things.

You see, she’s what sociologists call “functionally illiterate.” Bank statements, bills, contracts, sales slips: she’s brought them to me and had me figure them out — until she moved away five years ago. She finds it about impossible to figure out her (direct-deposit) pension by looking at her bank statement. She can buy things, but has a hard time looking at the sales bill and figuring what she should have gotten for change. Also, she was often suspicious people were cheating her.

This spring she called me up one day, all alarmed because of the discrepancy in a purchase she’d made. The item cost $6.25 and only got back a dime and a nickel (15¢). It really bothered her to think that sales clerk had cheated her. I did a quick bit of math and reminded her of the 60¢ tax on her purchase, which would account for the difference. Ahh! She was happy again and we had a nice visit.

Concepts like health, nutrition, drugs and their use, all needed to be explained in the simplest terms. Different times I went to the doctor with her and translated. She didn’t ask him, because she didn’t want to appear dumb.

One day she told me her doctor had said she was borderline diabetic. “But how can a person be ‘borderline’ diabetic?” she asked me, somewhat annoyed with her doctor for that dumb diagnosis. “I figure it’s like being pregnant: either you are or you aren’t.”

I went for a simple illustration. “Your body’s pancreas, that makes insulin, is somewhat like a well. A well holds so-and-so much water, but when the well’s almost empty, there’s just a bit of water and the bottom is muddy. That’s borderline. When there’s no trace of water or even mud, we say the well’s gone dry.

“Our pancreas gland makes insulin as long as it can, but when it can’t keep up anymore, we’re on the borderline of having diabetes. When the gland stops producing insulin, we can’t digest sugar anymore. We’re diabetic and need to take pills or injections to make up for what our body can’t do.”

That made sense to her.

Before she moved, being almost eighty and forgetful, she was misplacing things, then was convinced they were moved or stolen. “Someone with a key, ” she claimed, “is coming into my apartment and taking things or moving stuff around.”

With her eyesight not being very good, she couldn’t see the normal wear-and-tear until something was quite worn. Then she’d say, “Look what someone did to my blanket. They frayed it somehow. It wasn’t like this before.” Sometimes the intruder would scatter a few things on the floor, just to annoy her.

She was convinced that “someone” was watching — that is, sitting beside a closed-circuit camera somewhere all day — to see whenever she went out. Then they’d come in and do mischief. She started hiding her precious things (she had nothing of any real value to a thief) like her many rings and watches into suitcases so they wouldn’t be stolen. Which made things even worse because she couldn’t remember which suitcase they were in.

I tried to be a helpful friend and hurried to the city several times to help her find important “lost or stolen” bank card, wallet, credit card, etc. Thankfully they’ve always turned up — in her apartment. I’ve helped her replace credit cards when she’s lost them. I’ve tried to be patient and be there (if I could) when she needed help or transportation, even though it meant an hour-long trip to town.

She bought a motion sensor camera to catch the culprit but, though it’s been set to take a picture every minute, saw no trace of the culprit on her film chip. I tried to convince her that people have more to do with their lives than sit and watch her apartment on closed circuit camera all day, but one thing I’ve learned over the years: you can’t reason with paranoia. Fear doesn’t respond to common sense.

She extracted a trace of criticism from what I said, got angry with me for not being supportive, and wouldn’t speak to me for a couple of months.

I was happy for her when, with the help of her children, she moved to a seniors assisted-living apartment in another city and her intruder woes faded away. I do miss her — just not THAT part of her nature.

Fandango’s prompt today: TRACE

Risks in Writing

My response to Fandango’s prompt for today: DANGER

Writing, as we all know can be fraught with hazards.
There are PLOT HOLES and SAGGING MIDDLES.
Our CHARACTERS may lack depth or interest.
The editor may say, “TOO MUCH LIKE one we just published.”
A reader may give us a BAD REVIEW even when we’ve done our best.

And there are editorial errors like
MUDDLED PHRASES and WANDERING MODIFIERS
that keep us from getting our message across.

I just finished a series of three cozy mystery books, written by A.G. Barnett. The series is subtitled, “A Brock & Poole Mystery.” Books in this series are:
#1. An Occupied Grave
#2. A Staged Death
#3. When the Party Died

These are police procedural mysteries, not so much danger and high tension like writer Charles Todd’s books, but quite satisfying in regard to plot and likable, believable characters. However, the editing in the first two books leaves something to be desired now and then. For example:
“He stood, looking down at the man that was waving his arms theatrically about him, arms folded.”

Edit #1: a person man is always a who.
Edit #2: Move that wandering modifier back where it belongs and snip a bit:
“He stood, arms folded, looking down (he was really tall) at the man who was waving his arms theatrically.”

The writer was quite inclined to switch to pronouns, so there were times during the first two books where I had to stop and think, “Who does he refer to?”

I’ve written an example to illustrate what I mean:
Roddy has a little monkey and he loves to climb trees. He calls him Timbucktu but he has a bad habit: he never comes when he’s called. When he’s being really stubborn he offers him a banana and he usually comes right away and grabs it.

I was happy to see that by the third book Mr Barnett, or his editor, had caught on to this problem and cleared up most of the confusion.

More Examples of Wandering Modifiers

We watched the avocets poking around in the pond with their long beaks through our binoculars.

Driving by in the car, the falling snow sifted down onto the shrubs around the abandoned house.

And one of my all-time favorites in the Muddled + Mystified Dept:
A social assistance recipient, providing information to her case worker about her two newest dependents, wrote, “According to your instructions, I have given birth to twins in the enclosed envelope.”

WHAT BRINGS THIS TOPIC TO MIND?

In the course of emptying book cases and moving books around, I came across a thin paperback written by Saskatoon columnist Bill Cameron. The title of this sort-of-memoir:
A Way With Words: A Light-hearted Look at the Agony of Writing.
©1979 by Bill Cameron
Published by Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon, SK
I really enjoyed reading it, though it may be out of print and unavailable now.

Mr Cameron points out to wannabe writers that the biggest danger is not saying what you mean. He gives a number of humorous examples showing how reporters and others have strayed from Say-what-you-mean clarity. (To keep things straight, I’ll post his comments in green.)

This snippet from a tourist brochure gives visitors to SK a curious picture of travel here:
“If you pull off the highway…and the first car to pass waves and the next one along stops and chats, you’re in Saskatchewan.”

“Cars that wave? Cars that stop and chat! And all this time, I thought it was the people of SK, not the automobiles, who are friendly.”

According to Cameron, this once-upon-a-time General Motors press release “set off chuckles and cackles all over the newsroom.”
“Some 800 employees…were furloughed for a short re-tooling period.”

“I presume furloughed is a weasel word for laid off. More important, I hope it was the factory which was re-tooled, not the workers.”

Even the universe is somewhat amiss, according to one news item:
“Ranging in size from dust particles to giant comets, interplanetary space is full of debris.”

“Nonsense. If space was full of debris there wouldn’t be any space, and Armstrong and Aldrin could have walked to the moon.”

An editor must read the news article carefully before committing it to the printer. As this Canadian Press headline from the 60s demonstrates:
“Alberta Catholic Women’s League delegates passed resolutions calling for tighter legislation against abortion and pornography at the group’s annual convention.”

“To suggest, as this does, that abortion and pornography go on at the annual convention…not only doesn’t say what the writer meant; it’s close to slander.”

Then there’s the famous one about Yogi Berra…a line that has been picked up by more than one gag writer since its original appearance.
“After he was hit on the head by the pitched ball, Berra was taken to hospital for X-rays, which showed nothing.”

I understand there are grammar checker programmes available now that will go over our writing and zero in on these zingers. Have any of you others bought one already? I’ll think I will be ordering one shortly. 🙂

“Are You A Nazi?”

An old BeeGees song comes to mind:
“It’s only words, and words are all I have, to take your heart away.”
Or
to praise and honour you
to despise and insult you
to blame and incriminate you
to acquit and justify you
to inspire and encourage you

WORDS: Comfort or Cudgel?

Fandango’s prompt word for today is REPRESS
Words are our tools, with which we express, impress, repress
— or resist repression.

ME? A NAZI?

I was working at the doughnut shop one evening, doing a bit of clean-up during a slack time, when one of my co-workers, a young man in his early 20s, walked in. Totally off work and out of uniform, he strolled behind the counter — where he had no business being.

At almost the same moment the staff entrance door at the back opened an ex-employee strode in quite purposefully. He’d quit several months before, so he certainly had no business coming in that entrance. Age: mid-thirties, wearing a long black trench coat, he walked behind the counter like he owned the place and helped himself to a jumbo coffee. Then he turned and handed the first co-worker a fat roll of bills and left by the back door again. My co-worker pocketed the cash and remained standing behind the counter.

I was initially stunned. This was a flagrant violation of our rule about being on shift and in uniform when behind the counter. They were also displaying a major contempt for me — a contempt I’d often felt while working with either of them in the past. I didn’t see the need to speak, since neither of those guys were going to listen to a word I said. You don’t need to say one word to show your contempt for someone. I had a strong suspicion what this was all about, which made it all the more insulting. They were dealing right in my face, as it were.

A moment later I protested to my co-worker that he had no business being behind the counter in street clothes. Maybe he saw me as repressive because he lipped off with this reply: “What are you, a Nazi? Are you the Gestapo?”

I put on my best German accent and answered, “You haff to obey ze ru-els.” His response was a disgusted snort and he walked out.

Could I have claimed “defamation of character”? Since I’m not a racist nor a German, I could hardly be a Nazi. And since I’m not a member of Hitler’s private police, I couldn’t be one of the Gestapo.

Alas! We seem to be in an era where accusations are flying left and right without proof or legal repercussions. I’d better qualify that: unless the recipient of your vitriol is from some racial or ethnic minority or the remark is deemed to be sexist. My co-worker and I were both white and Nazi isn’t exactly sexist. So there I was.

Also without witness. He was always quite careful about that.

DEFINE “NAZI”

For some, the definition’s simple. “Anyone with rules I don’t like.”

In my understanding a Nazi is someone who belonged to the Nazi party in Germany, or at least subscribed to their political platform. Or someone who belongs to the new Neo-Nazi movement I’ve heard about. To my co-worker it meant, “I don’t like you or your ideas and I’m not going to listen to anything you say.” Which might include any parent, employer or worker who thinks their offspring, employees, or co-workers should follow the rules.

Ideologically, my rock-band-drummer-pusher co-worker and I were on opposite ends of the universe. “Nazi” was a handy rock to toss at me right at that moment. Maybe I shouldn’t complain, though. There are a lot worse verbal rocks flying these days.

Well, I have something in common with the US President now, seeing he’s often been called a Nazi. As far as actually subscribing to the Nazi political ideology or being a member of that party, I wonder if he’s any more of a Nazi than I am? I’ll leave that question to more informed people than myself, but to me the term seems to be saying, “I hate whatever he stands for.”

One thing I wonder: Do those folks who suffered such atrocities at the hands of the real Hitler and his real Nazis feel disgusted when we with such cushy lives sling this term around so freely?

WHAT’S A STUPID QUESTION?

I made a quick stroll around the internet this morning and stopped in for a discussion with Kristian (see Tales from the mind of Kristian) about the word STUPID. We’re in agreement: out with it!

If “I didn’t sleep a wink” and “It’s raining cats and dogs” are outdated clichés that must be avoided now, I propose we add the word Stupid to the list of outdated clichés and forget it. Along with Idiot and Imbecile. (Dough-head was one of my dad’s favourites.) You can probably think of a few more.

They’re only words, but cruel ones, and they’ve been around too long.

THE MOST HELPFUL WORDS

I visited J.S. Park’s blog this morning, too, and read his answers to a reader’s question about helping someone get through depression. “Working Through Depression As A Team.” His closing thought is worth echoing around the world. I trust he won’t mind me repeating it here:

What’s the Most Helpful?

Once in a while, tell a person you love them just because. No reason. Many of us who struggle with depression feel like we’re bothering everyone all the time. They need to know they’re loved in the middle of that. That’s a God type of love. “I love you just because.” That’s a really big deal, to be loved that way.

In life we’ll meet lots of people who sling angry words at us and point out our failings. Don’t we all wish for someone to come along side and just care? A friend who looks at us honestly and still sees a few good points, who encourages us and praises our efforts even if we’re down in the dumps? And to be a friend like that?

As the song says, by using our words wisely we can win hearts.

“It’s Over”

Fandango’s prompt word for today is OVER. As I took a second look at it just now to see if the word would nudge me into a blog post, a memory popped up. So here’s my response:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“It’s over,” I’d tell myself. Over and over I repeated those words, fighting the feelings, the sensations running through my system.

When I was 27 I found a hard, walnut-sized lump in one breast. A shocker. I thought my life was OVER — too soon! Five minutes later I’d made an appointment with my GP.  Within a week I was facing surgery for breast cancer.

Being so young, I recovered fairly fast afterward. I was booked for a trip to the Cancer Clinic at London’s Victoria Hospital. (London, Ontario, that is) I was given three different oral chemo drugs and the oncologist set up a schedule for chemo-therapy.

Every Monday morning I had to report for blood tests, then was taken to a small room where I sat and had that stuff pumped into my veins. As time went on the veins got more uncooperative and would collapse when the nurse tried to insert the needle. She tried 3 or 4 sites at times. Now THAT got painful!

It’s pretty hard to describe how I felt after chemo. Not really weak, but like you had something inside you that you just didn’t WANT to feel or think about. Even back in Jan of 1981, when I started chemo, they had pretty good anti-nausea drugs but I didn’t push my luck by thinking about how I felt. I focused on, “This will very soon be over.”

For the first eight treatments the drugs (methotrexate, vincristine, and something called FV) were cold from the fridge, injected right into my vein. Definitely chills a person! Sometimes I read that expression in a tension-filled scene, “His blood ran cold.” I believe I know what that feels like a lot better than any story character. 🙂 And before long my head was cold, too, because my hair started falling out after the second treatment and was completely gone by the third.

Vincristine—extracted from a South African primrose, if I recall correctly—has some nasty side effects: it damages the nerve endings. I had to quit that after three treatments because my finger tips and toes were numb.

The second round, Adriamycin, lasted four weeks, again once a week. This drug was so damaging to the vein the nurse would inject it very slowly through an IV drip. Thankfully, though, it didn’t knock out my hair, which had started to grow again.

During those weeks different friends kindly drove me into the city and drove me home again. We went straight home, never tried to stop and pick up this or that. And all the way home I’d tell myself, “It’s over.”

At certain times of your life, OVER can be a most beautiful word.

 

The Long and the Short

Another writer wrote yesterday that the two-word tale, “Cut short,” is considered micro-fiction. I found this idea fascinating and started to consider a number of similar micro-fiction possibilities.
Like “Guillotined.”
Or the more polite, “Corporate shakeup: head dismissed.”

I suppose “Paid in full,” would count, too.
Or the more detailed, “We finally own our car, dear.”

Then I imagined an announcement telling that Kellogg’s cereal sales were down: “Snap, Crackle and Pop caught in crunch.”

In contrast, the gentlemen in my tale below, vying for the chess championship, are loquacious types. Not into brevity. This scene is my response to Fandango’s prompt for today: OPPONENT.

For those fond of unique words I’m also tossing in Merriam Webster’s word of the day: FUGACIOUS (fleeting)

The Gracious Rivals

The eager audience began a hearty applause and media cameras whirred as the two champions appeared on stage. An ornate chessboard had been placed on a low table in the center of the circular stage, with a comfortable chair for each player. This match could take hours — days even.

Everyone fell silent as the two players approached each other and bowed courteously.

“Esteemed opponent,” said Zakaruscu, the older of the two, “It gives me great delight in meeting you for this game. I expect to be defeated today by such an admirable adversary as yourself.”

“Honorable rival,” Lo Chan replied, “It is my highest pleasure to match wits with you. Your prowess is notorious. Though I dare to challenge you and hope to play the man, you will undoubtedly be the winner.”

“Oh, worthy contender, I know you for a passionate devotee of chess. You’ve defeated many a great player and I’m certain you will put my skills to the test. Though I shall play to the best of my ability, I can easily see that you will emerge the victor in this game.”

“Oh, highly respected competitor,” Lo Chan countered, “Though I do hope to gain the victory in this match, I am certain your advanced years will give you a tremendous advantage over my lesser experience.”

Zakaruscu bristled. “I’m not that ancient.” He unclenched his teeth and took a deep breath. Onlookers noted his fugacious smirk. “Au contraire, I’m sure your youthful intelligence, fresh from the cradle, will give you a decided advantage.”

“Fresh from the cradle!” Lo Chan glared at his opponent in a most disrespectful manner. “Though I be your junior, I plan to tax your skills to the utmost in this match.”

“I’m certain that you shall, creditable competitor. However, I shall do my utmost to prove your abilities insufficient to overcome my mastery of the game.”

“I believe you shall find yourself soundly trounced, my renowned fellow pro.”

From off-stage someone yelled, “Three-minute commercial break! And after this, could you two sit down and start playing chess.”

The audience gave a rousing cheer.