ME@20 and YOU@20

11329840_10153303151248535_1272654785956757739_nToday I’m grateful for me when I was 20, or as we say today in the Association of Personal Historians, me@20.

With APH turning 20 this year, we are going into the Disney vault, I mean personal vault, to bring back stories of ourselves at age 20. And, we are encouraging others to go back into their personal vault as well.

If only I could find my student IDs from Michigan State University from 1970-1972. My first as a freshman showed my hair in a cute 1970 flip.

By 1972, it was long and parted in the middle. I wore bell bottoms and wire rim glasses and frequently was told I looked like John Lennon. Was that a compliment?

In 1972, the year I turned 20, I was then a junior studying communications – body language, the mass media, etc. at Michigan State. It was the kind of studies that fascinated me, but prompted the “What will you do with that?” question when I said my major.

Of course there also was the time I met a guy who sold waterbeds and he wanted me to go into business with him. When I told that to my dad, he was not enthusiastic to say the least. And then the valve tore on my waterbed in my dorm and my floor was at risk of turning into an aquarium. It all turned out OK, though, even if that relationship ended.

Mostly as a 20 year old my elbows were permanently akimbo in opposition to all those things we were opposed to in 1972 – like the Vietnam War. What outraged me – and there were outrages a plenty @20 – was Richard Nixon bombing of North Vietnam and the mining of its harbors.

Bummer, man. Those of us who dreamed of the end to the war and to a perfect society, thought it ungroovy.

I even hitchhiked to Washington, DC, to protest the warn with this other guy.
This was not a romantic relationship; at that moment I didn’t have a serious relationship. This boy, whose name I don’t remember, was gay. Anyway, we were lucky enough to get one ride that took us all the way to Washington without harm done to anyone.

Don’t try this at home, grandkids. Or, away from home.

I’m not sure which protest this was, but good old Wikipedia lists the Emergency March on Washington, D.C., on May 21, 1972, organized by the National Peace Action Coalition and the People’s Coalition for Peace and Justice. Eight thousand to 15,000 protested in Washington, D.C. against the increased bombing of North Vietnam and the mining of its harbors.

Funny. I don’t have memories from that day. I wonder why that is?

Well, this committed anti-war activist skipped the protest. Instead, I called up a friend in Washington, D.C., and hung out with her, even staying over at her house.

I then decided to fly back to East Lansing instead of hitching a ride back home. It was not the most direct path back – I discovered in flight that I was on the wrong plane. But apparently, I did get back to East Lansing, Michigan, feeling a tad more foolish than when I left. (It’s a quality that has stayed with me lifelong.)_

I would soon leave Michigan State, work for a while, and then return to college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I graduated with a degree in. journalism instead of communications – my dad said I needed to study something that would get me a job in the end.

Magically, in that age of Watergate and reporters as heroes, I said I would study journalism. And, it worked out well for me.

after year of college (deleted 41fd909f-39d67-096d620d)What advice would I give my 20 year old self? As the 1972 song said, “Respect Yourself.”

What were YOU like at age twenty? Create your own Me@20 post today or share these questions:  
1. Where I lived @20:
2. What I did @20:
3. What I dreamt @20:
4. My favorite song @20:
5. What I wore @20:
6. Whom I loved @20:
7. What made headlines when I was @20:

APH20?

I hope you will participate in this little game. I think you will find it is fun to remember my 20 year old self.

Please share your trip down memory lane with me.

My journey on the GAB Time Machine

I woke up this morning thinking about an image of being on a time machine during a course I just completed – to become a certified Guided Autobiography (GAB) instructor. The experience was nothing short of extraordinary.

H.G. Wells’ 1895 novel “Time Machine.”

When you go back and remember stories and then write them,  you really are on a time machine, although not what H.G. Wells envisioned in his 1895 novel of the same name. My journey did not involve an actual or even fabricated time machine that took me to the past or future via the Fourth Dimension.

But you do go back in time when you explore your life. By sharing your stories, you make it possible for future generations to go back on their own time machine to learn about your life.

GAB is a program of the Birren Center for Autobiography and Life Review at the University of Southern California. It is based on the decades of research into autobiography/life review conducted by Dr. Jim Birren, who is in his 90s and still running GAB groups in his community.

Many of us – and everyone should – want to write or tell our stories. But we don’t know how or find it an overwhelming task.

You could hire me as a personal historian to do the interviews, write the story and then produce a book. I’m thrilled to do that, but I can’t get to everyone.

Guided Autobiography (GAB) is a process that involves writing two single-spaced pages a week on a theme stimulated by “sensitizing questions.” We don’t respond to each question, but use them to open windows into our own experiences, our hearts and our minds. Each story is as different as the person writing it.

We share our stories in small groups of no more than six, knowing what we read will be kept confidential and be respected. After each participant reads, we offer support and suggestions. We are introduced to the next theme, with those sensitizing questions, and are sent on our way to write again.

Our class was conducted through web conferencing over the Internet with instructors Anita Reyes, MS, and Cheryl Svensson, PhD. You’d be surprised by how much we bonded during those ten weeks even though our face-to-face time was via the web.

With each class, we found ourselves going deeper into our stories, and, as a result, understanding ourselves better. Our group plans to continue meeting every couple of weeks to share new stories on new themes.

GAB was an extraordinary experience that I now want to share with others.

For decades, I have helped people, families, businesses organizations and even the City of La Crosse gather and preserve their stories and photos. I also taught life writing classes for several years at Western Technical College.

Teaching GAB is a way to get your story written. How do we do it? It’s much like that old joke, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” In this case, each bite is two pages. And those pages add up.

As we completed our class, we each made a presentation. Mine was based on the 1940s icon, “Kilroy.” Long ago, my parents told me about “Kilroy was here” as graffiti written all over the United States by one anonymous person and then many others. In other countries, Kilroy had different names, including Mr. Chad in England.

Kilroy Was Here was naturally on the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.

As I was waking one morning, the image of “Kilroy was here” popped into my mind. My idea was that writing your autobiography is a lot like planting your own personal Kilroy on earth. You let the world know you are/were here.

Get your life (story) started now. If you are not in the La Crosse, Wisconsin, area, I’m eager to teach this course on-line through face to face video conferencing.

Who should write their autobiography? All of us. We don’t have to have cured cancer or finally brought peace to the Middle East to have a story to tell. Everyone has a story to share.

Current and future generations can learn from your experiences and find resilience in themselves when they go through tough times.

You can learn more about life-writing on my website, www.lessonsfromlife.com. On my page about Guided Autobiography I have a spot where you can let me know your interests about this class and also to tell me about times of day that would work for you.

Make your story happen. I promise it will be an extraordinary experience.

Typing, keyboarding and an ambulance ride

If I’m not the only person who connects an ambulance ride with high school typing class than I’d like to meet the other person who does.

Why typing class? This morning  I woke up in my own bed with this memory of pounding away on a manual typewriter this practice line from typing class:

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of your party.

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of your party.

Or to be more accurate, now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid at the party I was attending.

If I am writing this I must be fine. Here’s the thingamabobs that checked my oxygen level. It was fine. I took this photo at the hospital thinking it could be the tidbit of the next day but decided it took more explanation than just a tidbit.

Here are the details. I was at the bipartisan political party of friends who now hold it on the Sunday before Labor Day of gubernatorial or presidential elections. It is a great party attended by both Democrats and Republicans who speak civilly to each other.

The yard is filled with yard signs of candidates of all persuasions – Republican, Democrat and non-partisan.

At least I thought they spoke politely. I was talking with a friend, when suddenly I was overheated and sweating profusely. I was about to meet the Republican candidate for Congress when I realized I had to sit down. Suddenly I was sliding down in my chair.

A couple of doctors whose specialties normally would allow them to check my eyes and give me a new nose helped. In this case, they took my pulse, got me safely to the floor and lifted my legs on to a chair to get blood back to my upper part. Oothers at the party placed wet wash cloths on me.

The doctors insisted they call 9-1-1, despite my saying I was fine.

When the paramedics  spotted those political yard signs, they apparently said something like, “What are we getting into?”

I was already feeling better when the ambulance crew arrived, but was told by the doctors who were at my side along with good friends that I should still go to the hospital to make sure I was OK. Apparently, my own judgment was not to be trusted at that moment. One of the doctors said something like, “Sue, you don’t really know.”

And one of the paramedics who asked me questions posed this one: “Are you telling me the truth?” I had no idea that I needed a polygraph to describe my symptoms, but there is a tendency to minimize and “not want to be a bother,” as I joked later.

They wheeled me out feet first on a gurney, which allowed everyone outside to see me wave good-bye to them.  I even said  thanks to our hosts for a lovely party. My mother taught me good manners.

I also noted later that the friends who brought me to the party did not drive me home, something implied by driving me to the party.

Meanwhile, my husband who had a musical gig, was called and left to come to the hospital. He did suggest earlier in the day that since he couldn’t go to the party, I was to bring back political gossip.  He noted this morning that he didn’t mean for me to be the gossip. Sure, now he tells me.

At the hospital I had an EKG, other tests and all tests showed no problems with anything, although I am supposed to followup with my doctor on Tuesday. It was probably just heat exhaustion and being dehydrated. As we have long said, “Precious doesn’t like to sweat.” Confirmed now.

At that point, I decided in ER that what I had was The Vapors, a 19th century symptom of what once was called Female Hysteria. I was not so hysterical that I was unable to Google it in ER. Nineteenth century diagnoses appear to be coming back these days.

In our family growing up, we used to joke that our family motto was, “Keep up your typing.” (I also learned shorthand, which has been helpful. If asked how to spell dinosaur, it would be S-U-E.) My parents were right.

We took typing on manual typewriters back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth, but students today learn keyboarding on computers.

So here’s my message: Keep up your keyboarding. Now may be the time to come to someone’s aid at a party.

I may have already lost …

Just one of the ways are family may have already lost …

I was amused when my mom (AKA Mommy) told me about a scam during World War II. Someone placed a newspaper ad with this message:

“Last two days to send in your dollar.”

Who would fall for that? Apparently many thousands did just, making that scammer quite wealthy. Competing Urban legends have it that he got away with it and that he was arrested for not delivering on an “implied promise.”

It sure makes a good story.

No one could fall for something like that today, right? We are too sophisticated now.

If you believe that, I have plenty of bridges to sell you — not to mention the tens of millions of dollars that will go to you once you send me your banking information via email.

And yet, I sent in my Publisher’s Clearinghouse entry this summer.   I had written a blog post after hearing about a new prize – $5,000 a week for life for the winner, who then can transfer to one person to receive $5,000 a week for life after the winner kicks the bucket. My blog post was about “taking offers” from my kids for who would get the money. The post was meant to be amusing.

http://susanhessel.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/publishers-clearinghouse-im-entertaining-offers/

Publisher’s Clearinghouse discovered it and emailed me asking if they could write a blog post about what I wrote. I agreed. After all, any publicity is good publicity, right?

I entered, knowing how silly it was and that I was not likely to get rich quick. And I didn’t. Sorry, kids. But we can dispense with sibling rivalry now.

I also wasn’t picked to go to the Democratic convention despite entering that contest by making a contribution to President Obama’s campaign.  (I would have made it anyway.)

This losing thing goes back a long way. Long before there were legal lotteries in this country, my mom used to enter the “Irish Sweepstakes” when her friend, Hazel, bought tickets for her. It was always unclear how she got them but in the jargon of the time, it was all “hush-hush.”

The Irish Sweepstakes began in 1930 to raise funds for Irish hospitals and lasted for 57 years, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica,  which said this sweepstakes raised more money in the United States than any other country, including Ireland. “All the tickets sold there were smuggled in and sold illegally,” said the encyclopedia.  “There was much counterfeiting of tickets, seldom detectable because the purchaser had no further interest in the ticket if it was not a winning ticket.”http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/294177/Irish-Sweepstakes

I have never won the lottery, other than $3 or $4 (not millions) on Powerball. I don’t buy these tickets unless the pot has grown to at least $250 million because if I’m going to lose, I might as well lose really big.

When it comes to get rich quick schemes, I may have already lost. Apparently, the L on more forehead was not for Liberal as I have long contended. 

On the bright side, by not winning the Publisher’s Clearinghouse,  my kids don’t have as much  reason to bump me off.

And yet, as I was writing this, I had email from Publisher’s Clearing House asking the question: “Susan T, if you won $3 million for your dream house, what exciting plans would YOU make?”

Learning From the Past.

Imagine this storm coming towards you for days, weeks, months and even years. It happened in the 1930s in what has become known as the Dust Bowl.

Just before the beyond-horrific dust storms of the 1930s, the U.S. government assured citizens that soil was the one “resource that cannot be exhausted,” according to Timothy Egan author of The Worst Hard Time.

It reminded me of the La Crosse businessman who said the pine forest would  never be exhausted, only to have the forests that employed a third of La Crosse workers in the late 19th century gone within a year or two.

Hugh Bennett, a former U.S. Agriculture Department worker, later said of that government comment about soil in the Great Plains, “I didn’t know so much costly misinformation could be put into a single brief sentence.”

Egan wrote Oklahoma already had lost an astounding 440 million tons of topsoil and in Texas some 16.5 million acres had been eroded to a thin veneer. Bennett, who later was known as the father of soil conservation, was appalled. He considered the way the land was being used in the Great Plains a crime against nature.

Egan quoted Bennett as saying  Americans had changed the face of the earth more than “the combined activities of volcanoes, earthquakes, tidal wave, tornadoes and the excavations of mankind since the beginning of history.”

Until recently, I did not appreciate how horrific life was in the 1930s when storms brought winds so strong that they brought so much dust with them that they covered homes and sometimes schools. When a dust storm was coming, terrified children were ordered to run to their homes, but visibility sometimes was just a few feet.

Livestock suffered and died and humans experienced horrific lung conditions, coughing up dark phlegm and mud. Dust made its way into homes despite every effort to keep it out. Farmers said they didn’t go anywhere without a shovel to dig themselves out.  Insects arrived in huge numbers, including species not normally found in these places. Children were frightened they would awake to find tarantulas in their beds.

What caused the dust storms? Severe and prolonged drought followed years in which the grass of the Great Plains was torn up and replanted with wheat, which for a time was incredibly profitable. But by removing  the deep-rooted grass that held the soil in place,  moisture was no longer trapped, leading to soil being picked up and blown with great force. Without crop rotations, land became barren and unusable. Farmers could not feed their own families, let alone grow crops for sale.

At times, the clouds were so dark that lights had to be turned on during the day. When it rained on very rare occasions, moisture combined with the dust brought down mud from the sky.

Some 2.5 million people, unable to sustain life in the Great Plains, moved out by 1940. It was the largest mass migration in such a short time in the United States.

Have we learned anything from the mistakes of the Dust Bowl? A friend, noticing the book that I was reading, said we absolutely could experience dust storms like we had in the 1930s. I was doubtful because I assumed we were more sophisticated in land practices. Her point was that those who deny climate change and refuse to accept responsibility for the environmental problems we are experiencing today may not practice soil conservation.

And then I learned of dust storms in Arizona, including a major one today. Imagine looking into the sky and finding this.

And dust storms are happening today as well. Dust Bowl 2012 – a number of times this summer, dust clouds rolled into Phoenix, Arizona – including two in the same week. This photo is from the Daily Mail in England.

The U.S. Geological Service said after July 2012 dust storms in Phoenix that low vegetation cover and disturbance to soil surfaces are among the causes. It certainly sounds familiar.

“Future climate scenarios predict that drought conditions will worsen, and therefore more dust storms are likely,” USGS officials added.

(Read more at http://www.usgs.gov/blogs/features/usgs_top_story/dust-storms-roll-across-arizona-2/)

As George Santayana said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

The Great Gettysburg Reunion of 1913

Former enemies shake hands at the 1913 Reunion. Photo in the public domain as it was published before 1924. It is an inspiring photo that makes me wonder about whether we could get over our animosities for the common good.

I found fascinating this idea of a  novel about a reunion of soldiers – Yankee and Rebel – 50 years after the Battle of Gettysburg. And Gettysburg, 1913, A Novel of the Great Reunion, Part I, was available for just 99 cents digitally.

It was only the first part of three, but still I was intrigued by this reunion of aging soldiers who had lived through a battle in which 50,000 soldiers from both sides died or were injured. That number is slightly less than the population of the city in which I live, La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Maybe it is because our family doesn’t have reunions, other than weddings and funerals and very rare other visits that I am so fascinated. But author Alan Simon also had a great comment that puts into perspective the work I do as a personal history.

A novel of the 150th reunion of the Battle of GettysburgIn the novel – and this is not a plot spoiler – Doctor Samuel Chambers is in charge of the field hospitals for the tens of thousands of veterans who came to the reunion. Organizers were very concerned about these men of advanced ages – reportedly from age 61 to 100+ – who would be exposed to severe heat and live in tents with limited facilities. They worried that hundreds might die.

One such man in the novel was overcome by heat, but was treated by a nurse and Chambers. Angus Findley turned out to be  the aide-de-camp (second in command) of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart, who had been criticized by General Robert E. Lee for being late getting to Gettysburg. The following words struck me as powerful:

“[Doctor] Samuel thought to himself more than once that he was listening to history personified … a feeling that he would experience again and again in the days ahead now that tens of thousands of Civil War veterans had arrived and the Great Reunion was about to formally get underway tomorrow.”

A portion of the tent city at the 1913 reunion in Gettysburg. Photo in the public domain.

Imagine being able to speak to someone who actually was there at the major events in U.S. or even world history. We would learn so much more than dates and names of battles. We would learn what it was really like for ordinary people.  And that would be powerful. It is also what the Veterans History Project is all about.

But it also is the essence of any interview I do as a personal historian. You don’t have to be a general or even a soldier to be affected by war or other events. You could be someone who produced materials for the war effort or lived daily in fear your loved one would be injured or die.

Simon did what I do as a personal historian. I fill in the backstory of client memories with research. He brought interesting characters into his novels – with research behind them. They include military names in this country like future general Douglas MacArthur and Ulysses S. Grant III (the grandson of the General and President), who were classmates and rivals in the West Point Class of 1903.  And young George Patton, the future general, is mentioned in the book’s first part. Patton actually attended it, according to Simon’s research.

I have only read the first part – the second will be out at the holidays – and I assume the third will be available next July when it will be the 100th  anniversary since that reunion and the 150th since that battle. I can’t wait. Historic fiction can put us in times we will never experience personally.

If you want to see what these proud veterans were like at the reunion in 1913, there is a clip on YouTube that shows them.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yt7qvuHSg6U

I’m looking forward to Part II of Simon’s serial. Learn more about it at www.alansimonbooks.com or on Amazon.

What is a dysfunctional family?

A party in 1969 for my parents 25th anniversary. I would have been a junior in high school and my brother a freshman at Northwestern University. Do we look dysfunctional?

At a coffee shop Wednesday morning, I told the story of being at lunch with three other women years ago when one turned to me and said,  “You came from a functional family, didn’t you? We didn’t.”

I made a joke about hanging my head in shame. It is odd to feel “left out” by coming from a strong, healthy family – although one that certainly was not perfect.

One of my friends asked a very good question, “What is a dysfunctional family?”

If you have any problems in your family are you dysfunctional? What family doesn’t have problems?

I guess my family growing up was functional because there was never a time that I doubted I was loved. If anything, I suffered from too much love. All children should have that much suffering. I certainly hope my kids did.

I decided to Google dysfunctional family and came up with this definition on Wikipedia, which cited the book, Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves: Healing Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families, by David Stoop and James Masteller

“A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often child neglect or abuse on the part of individual parents occur continually and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions. Children sometimes grow up in such families with the understanding that such an arrangement is normal.”

Yikes! With that definition, I sure hope that these friends did not truly come from dysfunctional families. Of course, no one knows what goes on in another home, another marriage, another family, etc. Often, we don’t understand what goes on in our own homes.

Whatever happens in our families, it is good to talk and write about them to better  understand ourselves.

As I was walking home from the coffee shop, another memory came to mind. The year that our son Matt had his bone marrow transplant in Minneapolis and died, the comment was made to my husband and me that it was good that Maggie was living in a “stable home because yours certainly wasn’t stable during that time.”

This person meant well but was just clumsy in her speech. One thing that I learned from my experiences in life is to listen to the intent and not the precise words. Being human we aren’t perfect, a reason intent trumps specifics. I stumble myself when trying to express myself without the ability to rewrite.

I also know that unstable is not the same as dysfunctional, at least under that definition on Wikipedia.

Dick and I had conversations during those months when Matt was on transplant that speak to how we would handle incredibly difficult times. I remember a walk we took around the University of Minnesota Hospital where we agreed we would not blame each other for whatever happened and later that we would not let this terrible loss destroy Maggie or our family.

None of us go through life without tough stuff happening. How we respond is based, in part, on the messages playing in heads from our parents in their own times of trouble. I am fortunate that my tapes from childhood are functional, stable and loving.

Refrigerator archeology

A photo collage off my fridge.

When my husband was writing about politics during the 2004 presidential election, he had the opportunity on separate occasions to question the two running mates of the presidential candidates.

Politics aside, an older reporter from an Iowa newspaper asked  U.S. Senator John Edwards an intriguing question: “What’s in your pockets?” He dug into his pants and jacket pockets but had no money or identification. What he had were words of encouragement and drawings made by his youngest kids.

What you have in your pockets says a lot about you. What you post on your refrigerator also does some talking.

I filled a small box of things Monday morning in anticipation of our new refrigerator (see previous blog post for why we needed to replace it). I found intriguing items that together form a kind of timeline of our family life. Items went back at least a couple of decades and some are yellowing with age.

What did I find in this archeological – albeit surface – dig?

  • A 1999 clipping from the La Crosse Tribune with Maggie’s photo as prom queen at Logan High School. I was on the fifth grade safety patrol trip to Washington DC when her reign was announced so I was not there for her installation. My year as the “queen mum” was over so quickly.
  • Also, in about 1999, Michael created an invitation to a surprise party for his birthday. We fixed him – we really gave him a surprise party the day before he thought the fake surprise was to be held. Michael jumped when his friends shouted “Surprise!” and told us to never do that again.
  • A 1982 holiday card made from a photo of Matt and Maggie at Maggie’s 2nd birthday in September of that year. That was also the year Matt’s leukemia was diagnosed in mid December right after his 5th birthday.
  • A 2000 ad placed in the La Crosse Tribune alerting the world that I had two teenagers in the house – for one day only. Gasp! Their birthdays are six years and 363 days apart which means there was were only two days in their lives when they were both teenagers – September 21 and September 22, 2010. Maggie came home for the 22nd – which we called the between the birthdays celebration – but returned to college for her own. All of a sudden my two teenagers stormed around the house, slammed doors and yelled, “You just don’t understand me!” I loved it.
  • An unchecked lottery ticket from May 2012 and a 30 percent off Kohl’s coupon that expired in May.
  • A retirement poster for my husband’s party in 2010.
  • A photo of Michael as one of the bad kids in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” at La Crosse Community Theater. Here he is presenting a canned ham to the baby Jesus. He started rehearsals for that play the day after his Bar Mitzvah.
  • Various out of date magnets, including eight-year-old calendars, the monthly cost of my mother’s storage unit in 2001 and one with phone numbers for a former savings in loan in La Crosse.

What have I learned from this exercise about myself? There was so much stuff on my fridge – this is not all  and there was more on the sides – that I was beyond seeing many of these items.

Also, perhaps if I had checked that lottery ticket I would have had the big bucks to spend with my 30 percent off coupon from Kohl’s.

What’s on your fridge? What stories can you tell about these items?

The icebox cometh — and departs

As a personal historian, I’ve long held the belief that everyone has a story. The same can be said for every thing.

So here it is, the story of my icebox. It’s funny because until we purchased this appliance, I really did call refrigerators iceboxes, an homage to my parents. For much of their lives, ice slabs brought by the ice man were the coolant that kept food from spoiling.

Even when I was growing up, my mom referred to leftovers as “cleaning out the icebox night.”

And that is exactly what my husband and I are doing tonight – cleaning out the icebox.

And you thought iceboxes were things of the past …

Notice the glacier forming at the bottom of the freezer. That ever-growing monstrosity reminds me of the old movie, “The Blob.” In promotional materials, it was described as the story of when “An alien life form consumes everything in is path as it grows and grows.”

A publicity shot for the 1958 movie, “The Blob.” You would not want it coming near you.

I was taken to see this movie with other neighborhood kids at the Tivoli Theater in The Loop in St. Louis. All, I can tell you is that for years I had nightmares about the “grease blood.” Of course, I was afraid of many things.

With time, I managed to get beyond The Blob, finally believing there was no such thing. And then I opened my freezer and saw an ice blob large enough to consume foods in the freezer, including the bags of frozen peas that were just what I needed for aching knees a few years back.  Other frozen foods likely will never see the inside of our stomachs unless we take up ice sculpting.

On Monday morning, a new refrigerator will replace the blob-filled one we purchased in 1991.

In addition to clean-out-the-icebox night, we will have clean-off-the- icebox night. Like any good fridge, this one is covered with photos and other memorabilia of our family. Yes, this family bulletin board holds plenty of this and plenty of that.

One other thing you might notice about our freezer section is that things are in there haphazardly. My brother had a few things to say about that when he went looking for a cold drink a few years back. He made me promise I would send a search team if he was not back in half an hour.

My brother was a bit of a critic about my fridge. I’m sure he will be sad to hear of its passing.

Our fridge was and will be limited by the space under our cabinet and the limits of our wallet. It is going to be a very tight squeeze getting a 66.5-inch high fridge into a 66.5-inch opening. We may also need to take up wood carving along with ice sculpting.

Our soon-to-be-departed icebox will be different from our new one. Instead of lasting 21 years, we were told the typical life of new fridges is just eight years – even without a visit from The Blob.

Now I’m really scared.

Publisher’s Clearinghouse: I’m entertaining offers

A photo from a few years back when they had no idea they needed to fight over me.

This is what I heard this morning, or think I heard: The latest Publisher’s Clearinghouse prize would give me win $5,000 a week for life. Plus, I could choose one other person to get $5,000 a week for life.

Think of the family stories and get togethers after I’ve picked one kid but not the other.  It would be like Solomon cutting the family in two.

No way would I do that. I love them both the most.

Then I thought, I’m getting older. I’m entertaining offers to be my “friend” for the other $5,000 a week for life.

I’m also remembering. In high school when she went out, I always told Maggie, “Be good.” She always replied, “I’m always good.”

Michael, seven years younger, picked up that mantra as well.

The truth has come out over the years that neither one was an angel every single day of his/her high school and college life, but let’s not go there. They are wonderful adults who really didn’t give us that much trouble as kids – or maybe we were as blind as other parents were.

In that I’m-taking-offers category, there is that pesky issue of who will take care of dear old mom in her oldest years.

Maggie suggests often that we move to Kansas City to be closer to her and her husband.I remember Michael saying that Maggie would do a great job at taking care of me in my old age.  Should I hold that against him? He was probably in high school when he said it.

Both kids can write so I also need to take into consideration which one is likely to write a “Mommy dearest” tell-all about about their sweet old mom.

Of course, my husband asked whether he would get the second $5,000. I felt we could get by on the single five grand a week to which he added, “if we are frugal.” :-)

I have reassured Dick that he could still buy a mandolin or two each month with just $5,000 a week.

So kids … give me your best offer. Then I’ll send in my Publisher’s Clearinghouse entry because I – along with one of you – may have already won.