Enough Said

Enough Said
A sampling of my columns and why the hell is my picture SO big?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mental Pushups (original title)

Pianta: Reciting the alphabet backwards helps keep the mind sharp

Published 07/18/2013 12:00 AM

As a woman bookended somewhere between a bit beyond middle-age and death, I decided to step outside my familiar, do something really different, reach beyond my boundaries - I taught myself the alphabet backwards.
It took a while and was frustrating at first. ZYXW was pretty easy but once I dug deeper into reverse, I got confused. When I considered the alphabet backward as a single word 26 letters long, I wanted to quit. Maybe if I made a song out of it I thought, until I realized that singing 26 letters beginning with Z and ending in A was a little harder than a solo of M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E.
After many frustrating false starts, hiccups half-way through and restarts, I separated the reversed letters into groups of four; the last had six, and learned them as sets. My brilliant strategy worked. Learning something so familiar in reverse was actually quite easy and filled me with the kind of pride I felt seven years ago after memorizing my locker combination at work.
It was fun teaching myself something which required actual learning, as in study and practice. Exercising my brain is a good thing, it staves off mental-atrophy and I proved to myself I can learn something sort of wacky and cool at the same time. At parties think of how intelligent I'll sound because I can rattle off the alphabet backward. Although at the parties I attend, half the goers doze after dessert; we're not used to being out late.
Years ago I was in the car with my two daughters and my youngest, she was in third grade, started bragging about how smart she was at school that day. So I challenged her horn-blowing, "…but can you say the alphabet backwards?" So she rattled off the whole thing in reverse.
"How did you do that?"
She told me she "saw" the letters backwards. This is a kid who in middle school memorized 201 digits of pi and won an award on pi day, March 14. Now she has one master's degree, a master's certificate and is going back to school for her second masters and best of all she's gainfully employed. For me learning doesn't come quite so easily, but like her, boasting about it does.
Exercising your mind at any age is a good thing and doing mental push-ups at my age is a recommended health regimen. My mother-in-law was a keen thinker and quite astute right up until she passed away at 93. Every time I'd visit her she'd be sitting in her favorite chair with her mean little dog, eating cheese balls and doing word searches. She said she didn't care if anyone liked her dog because she loved him, and he wasn't mean to her, and that at her age she could eat all the cheeses balls she wanted and word searches kept her mind active. She was right and wise.
Shortly after I learned the alphabet backwards my husband and I went to dinner with a couple we've known long enough to be complimentary regarding our accomplishments and accustomed to laughter when communicating our failures. We were sitting at the table talking about safe subjects like politics and religion when I said something like, "...well what do you think of this, zyxwvutsrqponmlkjihgfedcba?"
They looked at me like I had grown another head.
"Don't you think that was cool?" I said.
"What was it?" the wife asked.
My husband set his beer down. "It's the alphabet backwards." She's been working on it for days.
"Why?" the other husband asked.
"Well, I thought that teaching myself something that almost everybody else doesn't know is kind of cool."
"Everybody knows the alphabet," he said.
"But do they know it in reverse?"
"Everybody knows the Pledge of Allegiance," he said, "but in reverse it doesn't make sense."
Ah ha, the pledge backward, my next mental health project. Enough said.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Culture Shocked, (original title)

Culture shock creates social unease; hiding out with the help

Published 07/04/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 06/28/2013 01:06 PM

Bookmark and ShareMy husband's idea of culture is an 'Actors named Tom Hanks' category on Jeopardy.
He's as unpretentious as L.L. Bean boots and Levi's -I'm married to a meat and potatoes kind of guy. That's why I was so surprised when he attended an evening at the theater recently. Not only did he enjoy it, he's been raving about the play for weeks.

When my youngest daughter was in high school she won an art award for a beautifully executed acrylic painting of a mouth-watering slice of watermelon. We attended the award ceremony, bumping elbows with professional artists who displayed their own works and judged the amateur competition, as well as academics who presented the works. I schmoozed, drifting from painting to painting, artist to artist, reveling not only in the talent of the professionals in their mediums, but marveling at the abilities of the students as well. In the center of the room a huge table was spread with gourmet accoutrements, offering everything related to a well-purported wine and cheese party, but without the wine. Instead, punch was offered. Soft music played in the background, and it was nice to be at an event involving young people that didn't involve a lot of synchronized screaming and sports crazed parents.

My husband didn't wander among the talented; he stood against the wall by the door with his arms folded and a stern look on his face, as if he was a security guard at the Louvre Museum on alert for art thieves. He was studying the crowd. Finally, after an hour or so he said:"I've had enough culture, let's go." I figured it was an opportune time to leave; the punch bowl was empty.

It's interesting to people watch when you consider yourself an outsider to an event. I do that at home shows and Home Depot. We went to a tractor store recently and as my husband perused the tractor parts and pieces aisle I shopped the clothing department. Who would have thought that a place that sold John Deere and Carhartt would also sell baby clothes?

Finally after wandering among weed whackers, chainsaws and goat gates, I stood with my back to the seed spreaders, arms folded. I studied the crowd, looking as if I was a member of their loss prevention team, on alert for nut and bolt shoplifters. My husband walked over, and I said: "I've had enough rural let's go."
It's not like I'm a city-girl and my husband is a country boy- I've been known to dig a ditch or two and he's classy when it comes to creating anything related to the use of material associated with the cutting down of trees. I can get down and dirty, and he cleans up pretty well. It's just that when we are out of our familiar surroundings we're wallflower people-watchers.

Years ago, when I was single, young and stupid, I went to a party given by a co-worker's family at one of those giant mansions with hundreds of feet of beach frontage right on Long Island Sound. They were boater types - lime green slacks, hot pink shirts with popped collars. I never felt so out of place since the time I wandered into a men's room by mistake. I was so uncomfortable among the rich, and those pretending to be, that I ended up in the kitchen talking to the help. Comfortable among folks who swam in the same kiddie pool as me, I sat, with arms folded, on the large step-stool they used to retrieve the crystal from the high shelves in the butler's pantry. When my friend walked into the kitchen to tell the help they needed more aioli for the crudités she asked me why I was sitting in the kitchen. I told her I felt sick and wanted to go home.
I was sick alright; sick of being where I felt I didn't belong - and besides that, the punch bowl was empty. Enough said.