Thursday, 13 November 2014

Taking a Chance

By Clifford Rothband

I write about my life's experiences, as truthfully as my memory allows.

It seems that I bought a race horse named Pompano Penny. As a yearling, she hadn't raced yet. We bought a couple of horse's at auction, including Pompano Sam, a most beautiful colt, black, stocky and tall with four white socks and a white blaze.

We thought Sam would be a natural trotter. Penny was a chestnut foal bred as a pacer. Sad to say both horses died before the year was over and never got to the races.

Sam got what was called strangles. Penny developed a cancer on her back. Both horses found there end at Lion Country Safari in South Florida. I'll leave the morbid details out but if a horse is insured, they might pay off, but insurance is expensive. If a horse does ever make it big, I have heard they bury only the horses head.

Now at the end of that year in the early 1970s, I took a tax loss of about $18,000 and got a notice from the IRS that one could not take a loss for three consecutive years in a five year period. And I was to bring any pertinent bills to the IRS office on North Federal Highway in Pompano Beach Florida.

My accountant said just take the loss, it wasn't worth his time and effort to fight the ruling.

I had to go alone to the IRS office and of course my demeanor was shot. I obviously felt sad inside and beat up but I dressed nice in a white shirt and long pants, nice leather brown boots and a string tie. I figured a horseman or trainer should at least show some dignity in front of a government agent. In spite of my own CPA who said I was a loser.

I had reported on time and was told to sit in the waiting area and would be called after a while. So here I am with a broken ego but a smile on my face.

There are a few other folks sitting around and talking and drinking coffee. This one guy sits down next to me, says his name is Larry and asks me why I am here today?

He is a thin man, looked like a typical professional, wearing a white shirt with thin, vertical, blue stripes, gray slacks and a red bow tie. My first thought that maybe he is another accountant looking to pick up some work.

So I show him my letter and after he reads it, he offers to take care of it for about $100 cash but, he says, if it ever goes to court he can not defend me.

Hey, what is another Ben Franklin compared to a 18K write off loss.

About 30 minutes later, I get called into the examiner's office. Low and behold, sitting behind a desk is the same Larry, the red bow tied accountant. He explains that he is a avid horse enthusiast and his family has been involved in the pari-mutual betting business his whole life.

You know what? He did my taxes for years at a nominal charge until he retired. I often met him at the race track where we discussed horses and betting.

Which only proves a smile and taking a chance can turn out well, and that no one can predict the future.


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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Worry Wart

By Johna Ferguson

Recently, the woman who lives across the hall from me in the retirement home had her room fumigated again for bed bugs. She couldn’t enter her room from early morning until 5PM.

I don’t know where she went; maybe shopping for new things she might have to replace. Whatever, I felt sorry for her but I didn’t think anymore about it. That is until the next night as I was going to start getting ready for bed.

Out of the corner of my eye on the air conditioner under my bedroom window, I spied what I thought was a bug. It was about a quarter of an inch long and brown colored. I went to get a Kleenex to kill it with but it scooted away so fast I couldn’t squash it.

I didn’t know what kind of bug it was but I wondered if it had come across the hall from the fumigated room and decided it had found a nice friendly home to invade.

I looked around for any others and then spied it again; it had just gone down the side of the air conditioner. Again I reached to smash it but again it was too quick for me. I guess as we get older our reflexes slow down like our minds.

I headed to the closet to get my nightie and there it was on the floor in front of my dresser. At first I thought it was a small twig but when I went to put my foot down on it, it fled away quick as lightening.

I decided I didn’t want to get into my bed with that thing around, so I went down to the main desk. Incidentally it was 9:30PM.

Young Chris was on duty and Lawrence was talking to him. I explained my problem and asked if I could sleep in a guest room but they said they didn’t have the right to grant that wish. Instead, Lawrence said he would come up and see what he could find.

He got a flashlight and up we went to my room. At that point, I was glad I hadn’t gotten into my nightie yet.

He asked about the size and color and told me it definitely wasn’t a bed bug as they were tiny, black bugs. He shone his light into every crack and crevice in my bedroom but found nothing.

Then he took my mattress off to examine under and on it, but he said no; I didn’t have bed bugs, thankfully. He told me to see if I found that one or any others to let management know.

I went to bed but slept fitfully, dreaming off and on about bugs around and crawling all over me. In the morning, I decided to check all around again but didn’t find that bug. I did however find some tiny small black dots on my marble windowsills.

I didn’t know what they were but knew I didn’t want any of them either. I put four in a paper cup with a tinfoil covering the top to take them down to the front desk to see if anyone knew what they were.

The clerk on duty looked at them and told me they were baby ants and she would notify maintenance and someone would come and look at them soon.

By then I had added a few more from the two other marble windowsills. I added them to the paper cup and only then did I discover that they had tiny wings and occasionally could fly around the cup. What could they be?

They only were on the windowsills or at least that was the only place I could find any. Whenever I saw one I kept shoving it gently into the same paper cup but always covering it with a glass coaster so none would get loose in the room.

I must admit my sleep didn’t get much better for now I have two kinds of bugs to worry about. I am hopeful now, after the weekend, someone will come look at my cup with many bugs and then do something about them. If not, I will have to ask to be moved to another room but I like mine so much, I hope that won’t happen.

Now a month later and two spray jobs, the room seems empty of those strange dwellers, whatever they were, and thankfully I am sleeping peacefully at night as I hope everyone else is on the 6th floor.

But I wonder now if I should worry about what the spray contained?


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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Last Road Trip

By Marcy Belson

We cheated. We flew to San Diego, we didn't drive the I5 south.

Then we waited for the van to take us to the offsite rental car agency. And waited. An hour or more later the van pulled up and we, along with another family of four, piled in.

The other man sat up front and quizzed the driver. In how many cities were they doing business? Answer, many, in Mexico. How long had they been in business? Answer, seven months.

My husband and I glanced at each other. No cause for alarm. Ha.

At the agency counter, another man informed the other family of the company policy. Buy their insurance or leave a $800 security deposit. After a lengthy conversation, the other family bought the insurance. We didn't.

We asked and they agreed to drive us to another nearby agency. The driver took us and our luggage, drove over the curb and dumped us on the sidewalk.

What a great way to start our trip. The second rental agency had us on the road in less than 15 minutes. I'm not naming these agencies because I don't want to be sued. But the second one was great. Enterprise.

We spent a week on the road. It was a long week but not as long as driving the length of Oregon and California.

I went with a couple of things I wanted to do. Eat a special quesadilla, go to Rubio's for a fish taco, take a rock to the cemetery for my friend, Harriette.

I didn't get the food requests and I lost the rock for Harriette but I did go to a couple of cemeteries to pay my respects. I have the ant bites to remember it by.

It was our last road trip. My next story will be about driving on the L.A. freeways and toll roads. Yes, toll roads with no attendants. That's all you really need to know.

So long, California.


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Monday, 10 November 2014

Old Dentistry – The Way It Was

By Old Bill Weatherstone who blogs at The Diesel Gypsy

When I was a young hellion (so they told me) in public school, grade 5, I was having a bad time with tooth aches.

In Toronto, the school system had a dentist on duty at Earl Grey public school for those who could not afford one. I was at that time going to Bruce public school about 10 blocks away.

My time there was always at 1:00PM and when finished, I was allowed to go home directly, cutting off two-and-a-half hours of class time. That was my only incentive to go to the infamous torture chamber.

The first session was a mind killer. I was told to sit in the chair, lean back, open wide and hang on.

The guy then picked up the drill (powered by small ropes and pulleys) and went directly to work on me. No pain killers of any kind just started drilling with chips and smoke flying out of my mouth.

After I grabbed his hand and let out a blood curdling yell, he stopped for a moment and in a gruff, browned-off voice told me that I could not feel it and then carried on.

It was only a few years after the war and I can only now assume that he was straight out of the army dentist corps. No experience required.

After a number of sessions with this butcher, I was glad to stay in class. The two-and-a-half hour free time was not worth it. Besides, he damaged most of my teeth in the process.

They were in bad shape and all I could do when attacked with a tooth ache would be to get it pulled.

In 1950, there was a specialist, Dr. Liggett, in Toronto who ran a tooth pulling enterprise.

His office was on the second floor of a building on the corner of Broadview and Gerrard across from the infamous Don Jail where the local hangings took place when required giving one the thought of which would be the most painless?

I used to transfer from one street car to another and with transfer in hand would climb the stairs to his office. Approaching the reception desk, I passed a row of plain hard chairs along the wall with patients waiting their turn.

When I asked what the charge would be, she answered $3 per tooth or 2 for $5. Extractions were their only service.

The line moved along at an extremely fast pace and my turn was only a few moments away.

Ushered through a small door, I was placed in a small cubical, one of three. It was like a men’s washroom from the 1890s with dark brown tongue and groove wood walls, only wide enough for the chair and a tank of medical gas.

The dentist would step in, put the gas over your face for a few seconds to just stun you, then grab the tooth and pull it out before moving to the next stall and repeating the procedure. You were only stunned enough that you could not fight back.

One of the nurses would guide me out to the exit which when you got to the bottom of the stairs, found yourself in the back alley spitting blood. You then used your street car transfer and carried on without missing a beat.

Compared with today’s dentistry, I am sort of glad it is all behind me.

With the super technology, x-rays, sonar scanners, form-fitting chairs, soft music plus three rooms of unknown gizmos, it is now a painless experience. So I’ve been told.

It just leaves me to wonder if these new modern dentists have been trained in resuscitation. After receiving the bill for work done, I can only assume a heart attack would follow.


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Friday, 07 November 2014

Down in Whoville

By Dani Ferguson Phillips of The Cataract Club

What happens to those cute little baby girls we bring home from the hospital? You know, the ones so sweet and cuddly. And who can get enough of their sweet baby smell?

What happens to those adoring looks from our toddlers as they reach up to us with their trusting little arms? What happens the moment they turn 12 and hormones start raging and they turn into she-devils in disguise?

I'm not an authority on parenting but I'd like to think I learned a few things as the mother of twin girls. Because I recognized almost immediately that I was outnumbered by a formidable alliance, I knew I'd have to get my bluff in early.

It has been 31 years since I had two pre-teen daughters and was on the verge of sending them to a convent. My only hope of revenge was for them to get their payback with 12 year olds of their own but they foiled my plan by avoiding parenthood.

Since I cannot hand down my sage advice to them I will share it with the entire world.

My plan was created one day after a very stressful morning of trying to get my 12-year-old twin daughters out the door without drawing blood from one another.

After I had sounded the alarm more than once that I was on the verge of taking drastic measures if I received one more flippant “Well, duh” as a response to a civilized question posed by their mother I decided to simply wait for my opportunity to illustrate the consequences.

I had finally had enough of the constant bickering over clothes and who “called” what in advance. Blows would ensue when one twin emerged from her room wearing the same outfit as her sister. This offense was grounds for all out warfare if she refused to take off the obvious reference to their status as twins. According to them dressing alike was a sure fire ticket to being a dork!

After reaching my proverbial limit, I waited until everyone had left for the day and I called a dear friend and asked to borrow her truck. I then proceeded to call a storage facility whereby I rented a cubicle for one month and then proceeded to unload each of my daughter’s rooms of their contents.

I was like the Grinch who stole Christmas. I took everything, all their clothes and their bobbles and left holes in the walls where the pictures had hung. I cleaned out their rooms as quick as a flash. Why, I even took their jars of cold cash.

What I left was one blanket, a pillow and one change of clothes and then I quietly closed their doors. Oh, and I made sure the change of clothes were matching outfits.

I could hardly wait for 3:30PM to arrive and the little darlings to return from school. The only thing I forgot was the camera to immortalize the looks on their faces when they opened their bedroom doors.

I had left a letter to each daughter sitting on her remaining meager pile of belongings. It was a list of the requirements that would have to be met BEFORE I would return their possessions (which I reminded them were graciously provided by me in the first place).

  1. Chores done immediately after school followed by homework
  2. No bickering with each other and
  3. No backtalk.>/li>

I had a calendar on the wall with seven days highlighted in red. If any of these three rules were broken it would add another day to the punishment.

So, they sat in their rooms (staring at their blank walls) and discussing just how crazy they thought their mother was while I enjoyed the peace and quiet. Every day it was blissful. I'd come home to a clean house and total solitude as the alliance withdrew to their rooms in an attempt to punish me with their silence.

Ahhhhhh it hurt so good! It was the most blissful seven days of my life. Better than Club Med.

Every day the girls had to wash their outfits for school the next day. By the end of the week, they had started making jokes about their twin attire and all the attention it had received at school. Oh my, the little darlings were bonding!

On the last day of their sentence, I waited until they were at school and proceeded to put their rooms back together. My mission was accomplished. I won't say that they never tried to push the limit with me again but I will say that by the time I got to the second warning they wouldn't risk the consequences.

They just weren't quite sure WHAT their crazy mother would do and that's just the way I liked it.


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Thursday, 06 November 2014

When You’re Not At Home or The Perfect Wife

By Arlene Corwin of Arlene Corwin Poetry

When you’re not at home
I do my yoga, learn more tunes,
Play piano,
Listen to
The radio,
Write, edit, closing wounds
To grow,
Expressing sounds
That no one hears but birds and cat
And God knows what.

When you are at home
I fall into my housewife mode:
Planning meals, peeling onions,
Taking care to find your mood
Without intruding,
Asking what you’re feeling,
What you want, including
What you’d like to watch or eat.
I turn into good company.
Gol-lee,
I am impressed
With I, myself and me.


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Wednesday, 05 November 2014

A Special Homecoming Queen

By Mickey Rogers of This, That and the Other

The Ohio State University, originally known as the Agricultural and Mechanical College, began Ohio State Day in 1912. Later changed to Homecoming, the event was created to bring alumni back to campus each year. A key part of the festivities included electing a Homecoming Queen.

To be selected Homecoming Queen, much like being selected to be a cheerleader, is a prestigious award for which most young women can only dream.

In 1926, the OSU College of Agriculture nominated one Maudine Ormsby to rule over that year’s Homecoming festivities, but the young lady had two humongous problems to overcome. First of all, although she was seen around campus and ate her meals there, Maudine was not registered as a student at the Ohio State University. Secondly, unlike many of her fellow coeds, she was not exactly beautiful, at least not in the conventional sense of the word.

Indeed, she was a large gal; she might have been the heaviest female on campus. On the other hand, Ms. Ormsby was ahead of her time for she was one of the few practicing vegetarians in the region.

To the surprise of college officials, this rather homely female was elected Homecoming Queen for 1926. Those officials, perhaps with smiles on their faces, had refused to disqualify Ms. Ormsby over the technicality of not being enrolled and as for her looks, no doubt the Ohio State brain trust realized that real, lasting beauty lies within the soul.

Surprisingly, the alumni and the students were more excited about Maudine’s victory than she was. She went along with the festivities but never displayed either nervousness or excitement. She neither smiled nor frowned as the crown and cape were placed upon her. For Ms. Ormsby, it was just another day.

Later that evening, after the parade and other festivities had been completed, Maudine skipped the big dance. Perhaps that was a good decision for she didn’t look like the most agile gal in the world. In fact, she could be described as having four left feet.

So instead of attending the dance, she contentedly spent her evening at a barn not far from the main campus.

You see, Maudine Ormsby was a cow. No, I’m not an insensitive male chauvinist pig describing an overweight lady. I’m talking about the kind of cow that moos, gives lots of milk and eats hay.

As a joke the College of Agriculture had nominated this creature for Homecoming Queen and when the student body elected the hay burner, Ohio State officials went along with the funny business.

To this day some folks argue that the joke was an affront to the tradition and seriousness of Homecoming but I think they protest too much. Although Maudine Ormsby was rather homely (if you are a bull, you may disagree), no real harm was done.

Although Maudine did not meet the physical standards of Ohio State’s Homecoming Queens either before or after 1926, Buckeye fans, with tongues planted firmly in their cheeks, would argue that she’s prettier than any Homecoming Queen ever elected at that “school up north.”


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Tuesday, 04 November 2014

Dr. Pangloss

By Henry Lowenstern

On mornings when the sky is gray,
I look for sun another way.
I find thoughts of cheer,
to help my sky clear,
and look forward to an upbeat day.


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Monday, 03 November 2014

Sunday Brunch

By Fritzy Dean

I had brunch recently at a local restaurant with a boisterous, congenial group. We were gathered to celebrate a dear friend’s birthday. In the midst of this happy occasion, I had a disquieting experience.

Sitting right across the table from me, a new acquaintance looked directly at me and said, “You have such pretty eyes. They are SO blue and together with your silver hair, they are just beautiful!”

I mumbled “Thank you, what a sweet thing to say.” Then I quickly excused myself and left for the ladies room.

In there, I was flooded with a tsunami of emotions. I was crying profusely, I didn’t quite know why and I couldn’t seem to stop.

Desperate to avoid disrupting the party, I began to wash my face with cold water. The water and a stern talking to myself finally slowed the tears. I used lots of paper towels to dry my face and clean up the mess, where I had over splashed.

Taking deep breaths, I told myself, “You can figure this out later. It’s a party, doofus!”

I returned to the table and no one noticed my flushed face and swollen eyes - or, more likely, were too polite to mention them.

There was much laughter amid talk of vacations and trips being planned. Much vivid, happy talk, from vivid, vibrant people. My quietness and preoccupation went unnoticed in the general air of celebration and community.

As the party broke up, I hugged the young woman who had complimented me and told her I hoped we would meet again. I was sincere. She is such an amazing woman, and if she had never exchanged a word with me I would have thought the same.

She is a wife and the mother of two gorgeous small children who were so well behaved while the grown-ups talked and talked, endlessly. She is a cancer survivor. She runs a successful business. She has a wide eager smile and a wide-open eager heart to match.

When I came home and was alone, the tears came again. Whenever I thought of that moment, there was a waterfall, a Niagara. Finally I got calm and began to try and understand what had happened.

I realized I have grown accustomed to being invisible. In fact, I wrote an essay for a class a few years ago titled, The Invisible Woman. It was autobiographical.

I don’t personalize this; all older woman are invisible. Our culture worships youth. Billions are spent annually on anti-aging products and more billions on face lifts and Botox.

As a woman of a certain age, to use the charming French expression, I try not to be obtrusive. I dress to please myself since I know no one will notice. Perhaps the only time I might be under scrutiny would be if I dressed “too young” for my age.

I have become accustomed to not being seen. So when this lovely young woman said, “You have such pretty eyes,” I was taken aback.My universe shifted. How am I supposed to feel about this?” was my inner dialogue.

This is what I have worked out: She is unusual. She did notice me. She looked at me. And she touched me.

I want to hug her. Again. Tighter. I want to tell her what it means that she said those words.

It means she saw me. She saw me. She knew I’m still in here. I’m alive and real. I’m still me and she saw me.


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Friday, 31 October 2014

Maternal Memories

By kenju of Just Ask Judy

While writing a short post on Facebook today, I found myself deep in memories of my maternal grandmother. I know I have written about her before but maybe you won't remember it.

Mammaw,+Buckey,+Tillie,+etcIn the photo at left, my grandmother is front row, middle and Bucky is back row, left. Tillie is on the front row, right and I do not know the others. Mammaw looks stern in this photo, but she always had a smile on her face and a ready laugh.

She ran a boarding house on Dunbar Street in Charleston, West Virginia, for young, single working women during the 1930s and 40s. As a divorcee in the 1920s charged with making her own way while raising five children, life wasn't easy. She knew all about cooking, cleaning, making beds and keeping house so she started a rooming house.

She had strict rules: ladies could not entertain gentlemen in their rooms and had to confine their visits to the parlor with my grandmother looking in from time to time to make sure nothing untoward was happening. It was a large room with flowered wallpaper, flowered couches, flowered chairs and a flowered rug.

Some of my fondest memories are of her standing at her stove stirring a pot of something that smelled so good my mouth would water, while singing a hymn at the top of her lungs.

Her specialty was chicken and dumplings but beef stew and fried chicken ran close behind as everyone's favorites. She always cooked enough for 20. Having been a farm wife, she had to cook for the whole family and all the farm hands.

At every meal there were two meats, four or five vegetables, hot biscuits and rolls and apple pie or spice cake for dessert. Those varied, of course but they were my choices.

She often sang, "I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses" and other hymns. She wasn't a good singer but she was loud and she always put her own twist to the song, changing its tempo or tune.

The ice box gave way to a new refrigerator when I was about five and I remember her excitement at having the new appliance. I recall it had a big round contraption on top (either a motor or fan, I don't know).

I loved sitting on her porch swing. On a string trellis growing up the side of the porch there were morning glories of such a piercing blue they took your breath away to see them. Hollyhocks lined the side of the house and the driveway, and they have always reminded me of my grandmother.

I love seeing them but that doesn't happen much lately as they seem to have fallen out of favor with gardeners.

Sometime before I was born in 1940 to her youngest daughter, Mammaw married a Charleston judge whom we called Bucky. As a very young child, I was confused about who he was.

I knew he was married to my grandmother, but he was not my grandfather. Eventually I learned who my real grandfather was (a farmer and school teacher/principal) in Wyoming County. West Virginia. But the reason for their divorce was not told to me until after she passed away in 1971. That's a whole 'nother story, as they say.

Bucky's mother (or sister, I'm not sure now), Lizbeth Rand Burlew, lived on Kanawha Boulevard in Charleston, the wide street paralleling the river. The house on Dunbar Street was behind it, around the corner.

They had a large garden of both foods and flowers and I was always allowed to visit it and pick violets and tulips in the spring. I loved walking through the flower stalks, many of which were much taller than I at the time. I'm sure my love of flowers stems from that time.

Bucky's family owned the Burlew Opera House which was long a staple of entertainment in that area. I inherited Lizzie's silver hand mirror adorned with her initials, LRB. It was one thing of my grandmother's that I had always coveted, along with some antiques, which I now proudly own.

The young women who roomed at my grandmother's house were special friends of mine. I was born nearby and most of those girls knew me from birth until they married and left Mammaw's home to start their own married lives. We remained friends with a few of them, however, and visited each other until I was out of college and moved away.

One funny story about Tillie: she was nearly 40 (maybe older) and didn't date much. I considered her my best friend. She was only 4' 10" tall and wore size 4 shoes.

When I was eight or nine, I could fit into her clothing and shoes very well and I loved to play dress up in her closet. She allowed that to happen whenever I was visiting and once, when she was entertaining her beau (as she called him), I went down to the parlor dressed in her skirt, her heels and her bra (with no top) and proceeded to prance around the room singing "I dreamt I went dancing in my Maidenform Bra" which was a popular radio and magazine commercial of the day.

Poor Tillie was mortified, my grandmother was hopping mad and Alfred, the beau, was bemused and could hardly hold his laughter. They later married and I was so jealous knowing I wouldn't get to see Tillie as often after she married and moved away to Belle, which wasn't far but seemed so to me.

Mammaw lived until 1971, dying shortly after her 92nd birthday. She had suffered a stroke nine months earlier. I went to visit her and she said my name - the first word she had spoken since the stroke six months before.

In college I wrote an essay about her titled, The Most Interesting Person I Know, and after all these years, she remains that for me.


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