?`s and ANNEswers

Ten minutes to write. Less time to read.

Becoming a Slug

My personal trainer moved away the beginning of May, and it was the beginning of my personal downslide into slugdom. (No, that’s not a word; I made it up.)

I did look up “slug” in the dictionary.  In the first place, it is a mollusk without a shell but with a serious ability to pester your plants.  In the second place, it is a slow, lazy person. I don’t believe any of my family or friends would characterize me as slow and lazy; so maybe “slug” isn’t the right term. But that’s what I feel like.

I’ve almost given up swimming; don’t go to Yoga; and don’t do weights.  Friends and I mall walk two to three times a week, but that isn’t really enough to offset a thickening middle and creaky limbs. Nor does it make me happy when I step on the scale.

How to motivate myself is the real problem. My trainer Dylan made working out such fun that I actually looked forward to going to the gym. For someone who went all the way through graduate school without attending a gym class, that’s remarkable.

At first when Dylan moved, I told myself he’d taught me so much that I’d be foolish not to continue working out.  I didn’t need him, since I’d learned much in the two years we’d been together. I had the tools.

But I didn’t factor in motivation. And, frankly, I don’t seem to have any.  Dylan, if you read this, please get in touch.  Otherwise I may forevermore be a slug. Do you want that on your conscience?

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Flying High

Tomorrow I’m heading to O’Hare Airport and flying for the third time this year. And each time, I’ve found the online check-in process to be more and more difficult.

You know the routine.  Inside twenty-four hours of your flight you can go online and print your boarding pass, thus avoiding a stop at the airline’s kiosk to check in. So today, I waited until twenty-three hours before my flight to check in.  Turns out I didn’t have a seat assignment, and to get one for me and another for Earl cost an addition $33 per person.  Really?

No, I mean REALLY!

I called my travel agent who said this is becoming typical procedure. Airlines want you to pony up for a seat, even though you already have purchased one when you purchased your ticket. My agent said to sit tight, that seats would be released eventually and I wouldn’t have to pay for them. She said it’s a way the airlines hope you’ll fall for paying extra for a seat.

The thing is, we all know airlines overbook.  So Earl and I could get to O’Hare tomorrow and learn that, without paying extra for a guaranteed seat, we could possibly not be on the flight at all.  However, my agent has more information than I do; and she was able to research the flight and learn it was not overbooked.

So I waited. I waited six hours, and finally seats were released.  Turns out my husband and I are not sitting together, but at least we’re on the same plane.  So I went ahead and wandered through the maze that is now online check-in.  First, I was asked if I wanted to pre-board for an additional $30 a person. Then I was asked if I wanted to change seats.

You’ve got to be kidding!

I said “No” to all the added incentives I was offered and finally printed our boarding passes. But it doesn’t end there.  Once on board, we’ll be asked if we want to purchase snacks or a cocktail. And, if we were flying in October, we’d be asked to support Susan G. Komen’s breast cancer organization.

I guess I should be grateful we’re flying in September.

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Spelling 101

So . . . what do the words ‘rapporteur,’ ‘vicissitude,’ and ‘tantamount’ have in common?

Nothing really, except they have all been the Word of the Day in the past week.  It’s something I subscribe to online to enrich my vocabulary.  Or to demonstrate how little I truly know.

In the beginning, I knew most of the words that showed up in my email box; but as the months and years passed something happened.  Either Word of the Day figured out that I should have more difficult challenges or I’m becoming less erudite.

This all reminds me of taking Spelling in grade school. Each Monday, the class received a new list of twenty words to learn.  On Tuesday we had to define them; on Wednesday we had to use them in a sentence; on Thursday we had a practice test. If you passed, you didn’t have to take the real one on Friday.  Then the next week, we started over.

But none of the words was as difficult as the three I’ve listed here. Which means I still need to keep learning. For the record, ‘rapporteur’ is some who prepares reports and records. A reporter, if you will. A ‘vicissitude’ is something over which we have no control but changes things. I suppose that if your fiancé has a heart attack the day before your wedding, that’s a really huge vicissitude. And ‘tantamount’ means ‘equivalent.’ So this blog is tantamount to a memory about grade school spelling.

Except I probably would have had to take the Friday exam.

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Hair . . . Not the Musical

Four years ago I decided I wanted long hair once again.  It had been twenty years or more since my last experience. Which means that in the intervening years I’d reached that age where long hair on women isn’t particularly flattering.

Still . . . the itch was there. And so on a road trip to Yellowstone Park in 2012 I decided to let my hair down, so to speak.  And today, I have hair that is below my shoulders, all one length, and the goal I’d strived for.  I wanted hair that I could pin up on top of my head, wear as a ponytail, and even braid. Four years of judicious appointments at my local salon with Angie have achieved this.  (Actually, I’d have gotten there soon if it hadn’t been for Angie, but that’s another blog.)

In fact, now my hair is too long. Left alone, it falls in my face. Pulled back, it’s looks left over. And piled on my head isn’t as attractive as I’d remembered.

So . . . the itch has been scratched.  Don’t be surprise if I show up at our next get-together with a new style.

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Strange Bedfellows

Every two weeks I’m met with a basket of ironing. Earl does the laundry, but I’m in charge of removing wrinkles that the dryer doesn’t catch. Believe me, I understand it’s a self-imposed basket. And, today while tackling it, I came to a fashion conclusion.

Most of my clothes belong to two categories that are at the opposite ends of the style bell curve. There is the Talbot’s collection and the Walmart collection.

While ironing away, I asked myself what is it about these two brands that appeals to me?  One is certainly higher fashion and more pricey than the other. One is forty minutes down the road and the other only half a mile. One sends me fancy emails with discount coupons; the other waits for me to show up.

But what appeals to me most is that both stores offer clothing that fits. I don’t know about you, but my opinion of women’s clothing is that sizes are all over the board.  In fact, Chico’s seems to have developed its own sizing just for its patrons.

This makes it difficult for someone – like me – who feels the need to try on everything she purchases. So when I find a brand that works, I stick with it. Which all goes to show that, despite advertising to the contrary, when the shoe fits wear it.  It doesn’t really matter where the shoe came from.

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I’m doing my best to avoid television reruns of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center buildings.  I don’t want to watch the films another time as they’re already seared in my consciousness.  I understand that this is a national catharsis, but I’m already catharsed.

Instead, I’m focusing on my son Kevin’s birthday. He and I claimed September 11 long before planes toppled buildings. And he’s not the only one. My dearest friend Carol also shares the birthday date.  I’ve made sure to let each of them know I remember.

In fact, I roamed through my blog archives and saw that eleven years ago I wrote on the same subject.  Rather than re-invent the wheel – or the blog – I ask you to visit this link. And wish everyone with a connection to this date – -whether through birth or death – your support.

Please visit http://annebrandt.com/10min/tenminute/911/

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Staying Connected

Today I took the local commuter train to Chicago to have lunch with the professor who was my advisor when I was working on my Master’s thesis.  I graduated from Lake Forest College’s M/LS program almost twenty years ago, so that tells you how long we’ve been friends.  She is still at the college, while I have dabbled in this and that. We’ve both kept busy, which means we don’t get together often. But when we do, we pick up where we left off.

We have decided that Pegasus in Greektown is part of this tradition. It’s a manageable distance from our respective train stations, and the food is to our liking. Today we dined on saganaki, spanakopita, and grilled calamari. Aphrodite and Hera never ate better.

We had only two hours to catch up before train schedules and other commitments dictated we start to return home. But in that time we covered what’s happened to the M/LS program over time, what our extended families are doing, her work as part of Lake Forest’s preservation committee and my work trying to convince people to give gentle reads a chance. As time ran out, we moved to religion and politics, saving the most problematic for last.

Obviously, we hardly did any of these topics justice; but as she was boarding her train, I said: “Let’s not wait so long to catch up. Why can’t we chat on the phone?” Her eyes lit up. She hugged me in agreement and hustled to the train.

I know it’s old fashioned these days, but we are both of the age where it could work.

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Latest Obsession

I live in the undeclared Farm Stand Center of Michigan, maybe even of the entire Midwest.  From asparagus in late spring to pumpkins in late fall, fresh produce is only a corncob’s throw away.  And the farmer on duty understands when you ask if the corn was picked this morning.

This summer’s passion, however, isn’t local corn or local peaches or squash of all kinds. No, this season it is tomatoes. No matter what farm stand I visit those red, juicy globes call to me; and I’ve taken  more than my fair share home after my gardener friend told me about tomato sandwiches.

All you need is really good bread, preferably with a crusty exterior, a chewy interior, and no preservatives. Slather the bread with mayo and sliced tomatoes topped with salt and pepper, and you have a feast. But the real trick, my friend insisted, is to use tomatoes from a farm stand because they ripened on the vine and were probably picked the same morning as the corn.

Tomato sandwiches are delicious; I’ve had one regularly for a light lunch these past few weeks. Sometimes I add fresh basil and other times chive. Sometimes I eat them open-faced and other times I double the bread. Even after I learned our Supreme Court officially declared the tomato a vegetable in 1893 (when, in reality, it’s actually a fruit), I didn’t let that diminish my enthusiasm.  After all, Farm Stand season is short and I need to boost my vitamin C, biotin, molybdenum, and vitamin K before it’s over.

P.S.  If you are dying to know about the Supreme Court’s tomato decision, visithttp://www.businessinsider.com/supreme-court-tomato-is-vegetable-2013-12

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Labor Day

Today is Labor Day, the national holiday that, according to Wikipedia, “honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the country.” Canada celebrates on the same day that we do, but many other countries still recognize International Workers’ Day on May 1 as their holiday.

It’s ironic that this day acknowledges “workers” by having all federal offices, banks, and many corporations closed so they can stay home from their work places. But then, our country has never missed an opportunity for a three-day weekend; and this is the last one of the summer. Tomorrow lifeguard stations and beaches will be empty as workers return to their jobs and students return to their classrooms.

What am I doing to celebrate the unofficial end of summer?  Actually, I’m working.  No I’m not tilling fields or taking a place on an assembly line or creating new computer code. But I am handling our personal finances, working on a master marketing plan for my new publishing company, and reducing the emails in my in-box to a manageable number.

Because these activities don’t care about a holiday.

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To follow up on yesterday’s blog, I’m studying the condo rules and regulations where I live to be up-to-speed on what is and is not allowable in terms of “personalizing” the outdoor space around our respective homes.

Truth be told, I’ve taken liberties to the fullest in the firm conviction that my tastes in flowers and flower beds is beyond reproach.  However, the condo docs say I am in violation of the following restrictions:

I have trellises; not sure they’re allowed. We have attached sensor lights to our gutters and a keyless garage door entry to our wall.  Currently neither is allowed. We have one birdbath; not allowed. One yard art animal named “Rusty” given to Earl by his daughter.  Not allowed. There are almost 30 pots with flowers; not one is allowed. We’ve carpeted the patio. Don’t know if this is acceptable. Planted perennials: rose bushes, daisies, black eyed Susans, Easter lilies. Only annuals are allowed. And, yes, my garden hose is buried in the mulch to make for easier use.  It’s supposed to be hiding in our garage.

The next meeting of our committee is two days from now.  At our home.  I haven’t decided if I should resign from the committee or offer myself up as an example of someone who will comply with the new regulations.  Any recommendation may be sent to anne@annebrandt.com.

Till then, I’ll enjoy this wonderful summer of flowers, made especially poignant because it could be my last.

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