Lyrical Laughs

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Still learning, thanks to bottle caps

It’s funny how some of us (like yours truly) shrug off conventional learning but can be like sponges when it comes to absorbing lessons learned in the oddest of ways.

So it was with my Snapple cap. Last week I had a hankering for raspberry iced tea, so I wandered over to the corner market near my office and purchased a drink. Just a few minutes later I was sipping a deliciously refreshing beverage when I noticed that the writing inside the cap mentioned Portland.

The fact that I was able to decipher the message is notable because I have been attempting to adapt to wearing contacts. Sometimes I can read with them and sometimes everything looks like a big blur. Either the contacts or my brain need an adjustment. In the meantime reading is a minor challenge, especially tiny words on a round piece of metal. If you’re wondering how many words fit on a bottle cap, the answer is just enough to get my attention.

According to my raspberry iced tea bottle cap, our little city of Portland was named before Portland, Oregon. That’s right, folks, we were first even though everyone assumes the Portland you’re talking about is on the other side of the country. Ironically, Portland, Oregon earned its designation with a coin toss.

I know, right?

Apparently, there were two guys who owned a bunch of land on the waterfront in Oregon, and they both wanted to name the territory after their hometown. You already know one of them was Portland, Maine. The other (get this) was Boston, Massachusetts. They decided to flip a coin for the decision. Portland won. Sort of.

I know this is the unpolished version of the story but you can look it up and correct me if you’d like. No, wait - please don’t. This is still more accurate than my joke telling.

I can’t tell you how many times Spouse has run into problems at various jobs because of that “other” Portland, from packages being delivered to the wrong state to travel agents almost booking him on a return trip three time zones away. If he had been there he would have rigged that dang coin in favor of the Boston native.

There are tons of other tidbits of information to be found on Snapple bottle caps. Some are very surprising (penguins can jump six feet) and some are… well, just plain strange (a duck has three eyelids). They are all potential conversation starters – or stoppers, I suppose. What impresses me is that I remember many of them. Honestly, it surprises me when I remember anything.

But this isn’t school and there will not be a test, so I feel perfectly qualified to even repeat some of what the caps teach me and share my newfound knowledge with others.

Every day we are bombarded with all sorts of marketing tools on most things we consume. Whether it’s an eye-catching container, a coupon, or a UPC code that enters you in a contest, there isn’t much we make contact with that doesn’t entice us to buy more.

You have to wonder (fine, I have to wonder) why a beverage company would replace marketing their own product to its clientele with a little trivia. Maybe they are just hoping to enlighten us. Or maybe there’s a subliminal sales pitch in each little known fact. What if they’re disguising a deal within the message that it’s illegal to sing off-key in North Carolina? What if the cap informing us that one acre of peanuts will make about 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches is designed to make us thirsty?

I do have to say some people take this stuff way too seriously. It really wasn’t necessary to kick me out of the grocery store. I was just showing the cashier that there are 293 ways to make change for a dollar.

My lemonade cap told me so.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Meeting the grandkitties (and adding a fur baby of our own)

Last month we finally got to meet the two newest members of the family. First Born and The Groom adopted not one, but two adorable kittens. Hayley, a feisty female tuxedo cat, has been keeping them on their toes (which she likes to bite) since late last fall. Simba, a charming male tabby, just joined the fray last month. It took a while for Hayley to decide she wanted a sibling, but now they are the best of buds.

It is quite humorous to hear The Love Couple talk about how having two cats is the closest they want to get to kids for now. It is also very telling to watch them in action with their fur babies, caring for them and enjoying them, except maybe when it’s 3 a.m. and the two little monsters decide it’s play time.

I think they would be outstanding parents if they so choose, even at 3 a.m. I also think we would make pretty good grandparents, based on the fact that I’ve already taken to spoiling my grandkitties.  They deserve special collars and new toys. I love when we chat on Skype on our computers and the kittens are causing a calamity in the background.

You know how sometimes a woman might be around a new baby (they smell so good at that newborn stage) and start to thinking maybe she’d like another little one, especially if her growing children aren’t needing her quite as much? Well, being around kittens made me want to have another. Cat, that is. After all, we lost our sweet girl Reeses more than a year ago and have casually mentioned bringing another cat into the household. Sophie, Second Born’s cat, probably should have had a vote.

This past weekend we brought some donations to our local animal shelter and thought we would take a look around while we were there. You know, in case something of the feline persuasion popped out at us. We have sworn off dogs until at least one of us is either working from home or retired. Cats don’t need quite the amount of companionship dogs do. In fact, they often let you know when your presence is required.

Spouse and I discussed ahead of time whether we wanted a kitten (not necessarily) or an older cat (not one with a lot of medical issues).  We went in with the idea that the right cat – and hopefully not more than one – would choose us.

Enter Marcy. A sweet, affectionate, petite girl at six years old, Marcy was rescued from a hoarding situation with about 30 other cats. She suckered us in with her cropped tail and persistent push of her head against our hands the second we started to pet her. As cute as the kittens were, we knew chances were pretty good that they would find homes. Not as many folks want to bring home an older cat for various reasons.

The only one who keeps trying to vote the newest member off the island is – you guessed it – Sophie.  I have faith that she will come around, especially since Marcy has a very docile disposition. 

We are learning the hard way that we simply lucked out with previous cat introductions where we just opened the cat carrier and let the two new roomies meet. That’s not going to fly in this case. We are studying up on separating them, having them both eat by the door (on opposite sides, that is), then slowly introducing them. I feel like I should take a leave of absence from my job just to help the process along.

So we are loading up on methods of bribery like cat treats and toys, and hoping the “kids” learn to play nice. This brings back faint recollections of the toddler stage with our kids.

Now that I think about it, toddlerhood may have been easier to survive.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Life should have a volume control

Recently I realized just how mature (we will not say “old”) my way of thinking is.

While we were in Philadelphia a couple of weekends ago the Love Couple brought us to a brewery. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, one where I expected most people to be outside walking and enjoying the warmth. But nooo. Somehow they all had the same idea – stopping by the brewery with all their friends, taking up a lot of space and talking. Loudly.

The din of voices and glass echoed through the high warehouse type rafters. We waded through the crowd and managed to find five seats together, but attempting to hear each other over the cacophony of storytelling, clinking drinks and laughter was useless. Sound reverberated off the walls to the point that I could not hear my own shrill voice as I struggled to talk to my family.

Now, I will admit I’ve been fighting Spouse’s idea of designating a local tap room as our almost-every-weekend stop. But at that moment I longed for the dark cellar and not-quite-comfortable seats, and even the shuffleboard game where I have found myself continually trounced by You-Know-Who (and he’s an obnoxious winner, which we will cover another time).

I forget sometimes that First Born and The Groom live in a huge city where it is rare to find an actual small crowd. When Mainers (or those of us from Away who claim to be Mainers) say “a few people” we are serious – there will be a few, as in three or maybe four people. In a place like Philly where “just around the corner” means a three-mile hike, a few people typically starts at 50. So there we were that Saturday afternoon, surrounded by a few people by city standards. I started taking to reading lips and didn’t dare separate from the rest of our crew.

I have never been one for very loud places, even though I was the lead singer of a band in another life (before my main talent became cutting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into sailboats). My rowdy days took place more than three decades ago, when I knew the words to songs that hadn’t been in a Disney movie. No part of me is up to dealing with deafening entertainment at this stage in life. In other words, my midlife crisis will have nothing to do with grabbing the microphone and storming the stage again. But oh, I could tell you some stories.

Even though our kids are grown and we are allowed to have a life of our own once again, I believe Spouse would agree with me. We’re good with it being a quiet one. We can still be a fun couple (yes we can, stop laughing) but we’d prefer not to lose our hearing within a half hour of amplified imbibing and millennial musings.

That’s the other thing. I don’t enjoy feeling like I’m the oldest one in the place. You know it’s a bad sign when you look around a crowded brewery and you’re wondering why none of these kids is getting up and giving you their seat. That was what I found most confusing about our stop that day. What were all these young people doing at a brewpub in the middle of the day? Don’t they start their pubbing at 10 p.m., after I’ve fallen asleep watching Modern Family reruns?

A few nights ago I had crawled into bed and was just getting comfy, when voices and laughter from our next-door neighbors’ backyard drifted into our bedroom window. My first thought was: Are they really up this late? Don’t they know they shouldn’t be making noise past…

My eye came into focus with the numbers of the clock in disbelief.

It wasn’t even 9:30.

So maybe it’s me and not the noise. Maybe in my next life I will be a big clanging bell or a megaphone. I just can’t think about that right now.

It’s after 9:30.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Short showers – it’s all relative

Last weekend Spouse, Second Born and I went on a mini-vacation. By that I mean we sat in standing traffic that stretched a seven hour trip into ten, slept in strange beds/cots/air mattresses for three days, and ate too many enticing foods which we will be paying for over the next couple of days.

It was awesome.

We got to see The Love Couple (First Born and The Groom) and enjoy a beautiful baby shower for our New Jersey relatives. It was the last time we’ll all be in the same place at least until spring, so the time together meant a lot.

As a family we travel pretty well, including when The Love Couple joins us. We do not, however, agree on what time we are leaving the house.

Wait – I take that back. We agree on the time. However, certain members of “We” are never, ever ready on time. The biggest issue?


How long should a shower be when you have to leave the house? I say Move it. The majority is still sleeping on it. Literally.

Our bathroom fan’s timer has several options. I use the 15-minute button. So does Spouse, but the length of his shower is twice that. He likes to say he sets the fan for 15 minutes but neglects to mention that he starts it up again as he’s drying off. Cheater.

First Born is much like me – done in a jiffy and announcing shower availability (and like me, pushing her hubby along). On the other hand, her younger sister takes after their father. You know, the guy who can turn showers into Olympic events.

Second Born doesn’t even bother with the fan because she can out-shower any amount of time she would plug in. Her typical showers take the same amount of time as washing a load of laundry. I’ve considered throwing a few of items of clothing and some detergent in with her and asking her to stomp, rinse and repeat.

Here’s the thing. As the shower water is running my mind is typically thinking about what needs to get done before we are leaving. Every once in a while I’ll reach to turn off the water before I’ve rinsed off because my mind has jumped to making a fruit and cheese tray or finding my one pair of dressy shoes… something that takes more time than I think we will have in order to stay on track. Not that we are ever anywhere near the track by the time we get out of the house.

Even when I’m not in panic mode halfway through shampooing, my showers are more or less express showers.

Spouse blatantly admits he simply daydreams. He doesn’t worry about anything, not even running out of hot water, because we have a tankless hot water heater. You can stay in there until you’ve turned into a prune and that dang water will still be hot.

I’m pretty sure Second Born has picked up the daydream habit. By the time she saunters out the room is so full of steam that the fan, which she turns on when she is done, is choking and gasping.

I tend to try and make up for their lack of shower consideration by being the first one to shower so I can spend the rest of the time harassing them to Hurry Up.

It clicked to me recently that I don’t need to do this. Since I’m the quickest one I can actually be the last one to take a shower. That would give me more time to relax, I thought. I can snooze a little longer, maybe flip on the television and catch the news.

Who was I kidding? Once I’m even the slightest bit awake my brain is in full agenda mode. I may as well just get my shower over with and let the badgering begin.

You might be thinking their ability to relax in the shower is a balance to my frenzied hurry-up-and-get-to-the-next-thing mentality.

I’m thinking I should replace the bottle of body soap with Tide.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Making new friends (at our old age)

Are we any good at making friends when we get to the age where we call each other “honey” so we don’t have to remember each other’s name? Should we be trusted with new people?

I found out recently that it is possible to make new friends and even remember their names after 30 seconds. I would use mnemonics to recall names, but then I’d have to know what “blue” or “ocean” or “shish kabob” is supposed to remind me of. I have just had to learn to pay close attention and not let the voices in my head distract me.

A month or so ago I ventured into a frozen yogurt wonderland in Portland to purchase a signed copy of a new book by a local author. I hadn’t met her before but I was among her many social media connections and we had exchanged a few messages in the last year or so.

Stepping forward and choosing a copy of the book, I sheepishly offered the correct spelling of my name, not expecting her to remember it from her nearly 500 Facebook friends. She invited me to have a seat and we chatted briefly. She even gave me very sage advice on the best way to order frozen yogurt from this particular establishment. I felt some bonding going on.

A few days later I sent her a message and suggested we meet up sometime in Portland for more frozen yogurt or maybe dinner.  Soon after we were able to get together for dinner in between my work hours and a workshop I was attending. It was a really nice conversation and it went by very quickly. I was tempted to bail out of the workshop and just keep talking, but I left the diner feeling confident that there would be other chances to get to know each other better.

I had made a new friend. I was so excited that I just wanted to tell someone. But how does a 50s-something-year-old woman announce something like this? And why, exactly?

Let’s face it - it’s not always easy to make the acquaintance of someone that’s not from the inner circle we manage to corral ourselves into as time goes by. But even if we have been eligible for AARP for a few years, we still want to think of ourselves as interesting enough to engage in conversation with someone other than the UPS driver or the cat.

The funny thing is that I was actually nervous about meeting my author friend. Naturally, my nerves were completely unwarranted, but I think some of it comes from not often having to identify ourselves.

Back when our children actually wanted us to volunteer at their schools or on field trips, we typically didn’t really have any identity other than so-and-so’s mom, or maybe The Mom Who Makes Awesome Cupcakes. That wasn’t me, by the way.

Last week Spouse and I were invited to dinner with (follow closely now) Second Born’s Best Friend, her parents, and another college roommate from Pennsylvania who, along with her parents, had been vacationing in the area. The giddiness and excitement of our three girls during their reunion was palpable and adorable to witness.

Over the course of the evening we found our own tier of friendship with the other couples. Spouse and I had spent time with Best Friend’s folks but this was different from circling our vehicles on the college campus trying to jam everything in for the trip home. This was an actual social occasion where we were learning a lot about each other. Here we were more than just The Parents.

So there is hope. We can still make new friends at our age and with our feeble name recollection skills. We have also realized how important it is to nurture the friendships we have had for years. They can’t be taken for granted if we expect them to still be around. And the great thing about old friends is that we already know their names.

I just wish I knew why our friend Shish Kabob doesn’t return our calls.