Welcome to The Squeaky Pen

...where life is slow, and ripe with rural treasures

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Rose By Any Other Name Might Stink

One of Oprah Winfrey's self-help proteges is a woman named Iyanla Vanzant, whose claim to fame is serving as a so-called empowerment specialist, inspirational speaker, and new thought spiritual teacher. She spouts words of wisdom like "If you see crazy comin', cross the street!" Maybe she is an expert of some sort, I really can't say. I mention her because of her name. And her attitude about it.

I caught a piece of a show recently where she and Oprah were handing out relationship advice to callers. When one lady caller pronounced Iyanla's name "Ee-lan-ya" (the correct pronunciation is apparently "Ee-yan-la"), Ms. Vanzant chewed the caller out, advising her that if she was going to get advice from Ee-yan-la, she'd better get the name right...or something along those lines.

I'm sorry, but if you have a name like Iyanla, you need to work on toughening up your hide. Take my last name, for example: YASAS. Yasas is of Lithuanian origin, and in fact was spelled Jasas before the folks at Ellis Island got hold of it back when my grandparents made the trip across the pond. I've heard every imaginable mispronunciation of my name, which I've taken in stride. The correct pronunciation, YA-sis, with the accent on the first syllable, has been transformed into such versions as ya-SASS, YAZ-is, yaaaay-sis, and yas-ASS, the latter a popular one with grade school bullies. Worse still are attempts to spell it, including Yasiss, Yassass, Yassas, Yaesis, Yases, and, my personal favorite, Wasas. Wasas usually comes about when I spell my name over the phone and the person at the other end hears "Why-A-S-A-S." Many the situation has occurred when I'm checking into a hotel or trying to pick up a rental car and am told I have no reservation. "Look under W," I say patiently to the frowning clerk. I'm always polite when, embarrassed, they apologize for the mistake. Whatever, I inevitably say. It's a weird name and I've accepted it. I don't chew them out, and I certainly don't inform them that if they want my credit card they'd better get my name right.

Iyanla Vanzant, like so many people these days, has an unusual name. Parents at some point in our history decided that having a weird last name wasn't enough, and so started giving their kids names that would challenge the best of spellers. Take for example some of these: Morania, Aaliya, Navaeh, Beautiphul, Sophronia, and Xylophila. I personally blame this trend on Frank Zappa, who either under a drug-induced haze or who had a particularly odd sense of humor named his daughter Moon Unit. Moon Unit Zappa. Can you see the question mark over my head? And let us not forget other celebrities who followed suit with such first names as Daisy Boo, Apple, Indiana August, Kae-El, Nahla Ariela, Pax Thien, Petal Rainbow Blossom, and Poppy Honey. I ask you: isn't life hard enough without having to slog through name pronunciations, explanations, and spellings to the sometimes impossibly dense employees of insurance companies, internet providers, telephone services, and the department of motor vehicles? If my parents had named me Daisy Boo Yasas I would have run away from home.

So yes. Okay. The world has moved on. As I'm fond of saying these days, it is what it is. However, when I -- who has a last name like Yasas -- hear a self-proclaimed counselor mouthing off to a person who called her for help, I want to drop a note and give HER some advice: "Dear Ee-Yan-La -- I don't know if your parents gave you that name or you gave it to yourself, but it is what it is. If you don't like the way people pronounce your name, Ms. New Thought Spiritual Teacher, then change it to Sally. And if you don't want to change it? Then buck up and be nice. Signed KATH-leen YA-sas, New Thought Get Over Yourself Teacher."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In Their Own Words

I've been amused and equally saddened by some of the stuff that comes out of the mouths of American politicians. Below are a few quotes from the Republicans running for president. Draw your own conclusions. 

"Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of -- against the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment? Was it -- was before -- he was before the social programs from the standpoint of -- he was for standing up for Roe v. Wade before he was against first -- Roe v. Wade?"
Rick Perry in GOP presidental debate, September 22, 2011

"I should tell my story. I'm also unemployed."
Mitt Romney, speaking in 2011 to unemployed people in Florida. Romney's net worth is estimated at over $200 million.

"Put your baby in a dumpster, that's okay."
Newt Gingrich explaining what liberals want when he was questioned about his plan to initiate 19th Century orphanages.

"I think it's a sin because of my biblical beliefs and, although people don't agree with me, I happen to think that [being gay] is a personal choice."
Herman Cain, talking with Piers Morgan October 19, 2011.

"The greatest hoax I think that has been around for many, many years, if not hundreds of years, has been this hoax on global warming."
Ron Paul on Fox Business, November 4, 2009

"9/11 families and everybody else in America should be furious at this president that he's walking around taking credit for, you know, getting Osama bin Laden. He didn't get Osama bin Laden! The president of the United States simply said -- courageous act, give him credit for saying yes -- but that's all he did, is say yes. He didn't do the hard work."
Rick Santorum, following bin Laden's death in May 2011.

"He (Obama) put us in Libya and now he's putting us in Africa."
Michelle Bachmann, Republican Debates, October 16, 2011. It should be noted that Libya is in Africa.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Am Not A Star-Bellied Sneetch

One of my earliest memories from childhood is pink flamingos in the front yard. No, I didn't grow up in Florida, or wherever flamingos are indigenous. I grew up in upstate New York. And the pink flamingos in my yard were plastic.

Sticking so-called decorative objects in the yard or on the sides of houses or fences isn't new. Flamingos in the front bushes were popular 50+ years ago, as were gazing balls and kissing figurines and (eek) lawn jockeys. Some of the more unfortunate of the yard decor over the years are items like the bathtub flower pot, the flower "bed" made from a real bed frame, with the head- and footboards buried on either end of the daffodil patch, tires with petunias popping up from inside, and perhaps the most objectionable of all, the toilet bowl planter. Okay, I suppose we can chalk some of this up to people without much taste trying to be creative. I guess they figure flowers are nice no matter what they're planted in.

Just lately, though, maybe in the last 10 or 15 years, lawn "art" has gone a little haywire. There was the cut-out of the fat lady bending over in the garden, the squatting gnome with his bare bottom showing, the giant butterflies stuck to the side of the house, and, more recently, the creepy dark and shadowy figure of a bear lurking near the back door, or even worse, the creepy dark and shadowy figure of a cowboy-type leaning against a post smoking a cigarette. I can't count the number of times I've spasmed in the car at twilight when driving by somebody's house and seeing that guy skulking near a neighbor's fence.

Now there's a new one. Stars. Big stars, little stars, giant stars, dozens of stars affixed to barns and homes. What's with all the stars?? I've gotten into the habit of paying attention now to the explosion of stars that people have decided to tack to the doors and gables and clapboard. They're bothering me so much I've come to believe it's some kind of cult and that the star people know something we non-star people don't.

This kind of thinking, of course, led me to ponder Dr. Seuss's story about star-bellied sneetches. Sneetches, yellow creatures who live on the beach, are split into two groups: those with a green star on their bellies and those without. The story is Dr. S's way of teaching kids about discrimination. The star-bellied steetches think they're somehow better and cooler than the sneetches without stars. When a crafty entrepreneur comes along and charges the non-star sneetches to put a star on their bellies with his special machine, the star-bellied sneetches get crazy and want their stars removed, which is accomplished with his other special machine. The sneetches run back and forth between the machines until, as Dr. Seuss put it, "neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew whether this one was that one or that one was this one or which one was what one or what one was who." The sneetches ultimately run out of money and, in true Dr. Seuss fashion, learn to get along.

I can't look at a star on a house these days without thinking of the Star-Bellies. Do the star people think they're cooler, or better, than those of us without stars? Is there some kooky star cult out there that us non-star folk know nothing about? Or is this just one more goofy outside ornament that a crafty entrepreneur has come up with to bilk money out of unsuspecting consumers? I suppose time will tell.

In the meantime, I'm keeping a sharp eye on the star-people houses. Because you never know.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Eyes Still Don't Have It

I'm delayed in posting today because of my eyes. Looking at the computer screen is a bit like sitting a foot in front of a car with its high beams on. Twelve days have passed since I received the news about my infected corneas. I've been a good patient, lubricating my eyes with drops during the day and coating them with ointment before bed, ointment that's essentially Vaseline in a tube. The fear of going blind from this has been raging inside me in spite of the doctor's assurance that I won't. I can't be sure until my next appointment, but I think the eyes are getting better. They don't hurt, they don't itch, and the redness is gone, and although my vision still isn't good, I'm improving. Not surprisingly, the last week and a half of bumping around the house has caused me to wonder what it would be like to lose my sight.

Absent all of the obvious trauma of such a disastrous result, one tiny situation of blindness (though not so tiny as it turns out) is bugs. Specifically, mosquitoes. There is no insect I hate more than the mosquito, with its whining scree when near an ear. There has been a mosquito in my bedroom for the past three nights, torturing me after lights out. The ointment I'm squeezing into my eyes doesn't exactly cause blindness in the classic way (ie, total darkness), but it does nonetheless render me unable to see. Imagine peering through a bowl of mottled gelatin. The first night, after applying the ointment, I turned around and fell over the luggage rack, scrambled up and felt my way into bed. My lamp hadn't been turned off for more than a minute before I heard it...the unmistakable high pitch of a mosquito nearby. My first thought: what is a mosquito doing around in October? My second: there's nothing I can do about it. I can't see. I flailed my arms around for a few seconds and held my breath, knowing that mosquitoes are drawn to exhaled carbon dioxide. I turned on the light and blinked, trying to clear the ointment away for a few seconds, which of course didn't work. I couldn't see the dog much less a mosquito. Defeated, I shut off the light and buried my head under the covers until I fell asleep. The next morning I woke up with a bite on my forehead.

Night Two Of The Mosquito was pretty much the same. Ointment, stumbling, lights out, high-pitched scree, arm waving, breath holding, under the covers. Morning two: another bite, this one on my arm.

So last night I decided to forego the ointment. I got in bed, shut off the light, and waited. Sure enough he was back (he, or another of his brethren). I sprang out of bed and turned on the lamp, already armed with my fly swatter. There it was, the ghastly bug, perched on skinny legs clinging to my wall. I swatted him and he fell dead. Ha! I shouted triumphantly as Harry looked on, puzzled and frowning. I returned to bed and sighed with relief, muttering to the deceased bug I am NOT blind, buddy boy. You messed with the wrong girl.

What, though, would it be like if I were blind? I couldn't get the idea out of my head last night. Before now, when I thought of the blind I imagined the difficulty of travel, crossing the street, negotiating household duties, not being able to drive or use the computer or read. It never occurred to me that something as seemingly insignificant as a mosquito...which we sighted folks see, swat, and move past...might be such a huge issue. Before nodding off to sleep, I said a little thank you that I was born with sight, and still have it, my current blurry view of the world notwithstanding.

Stephen King, of whom I am a great fan, has a predisposition to macular degeneration. I read an interview once during which he made light of the situation, saying something like writers should be looking out of the corners of their eyes anyway. I'm not sure I could take such a diagnosis in stride, and let's hope I don't have to. I'm not sure how this problem is going to play out over the next six months, but I am sure of one thing: I'll never take my vision for granted again. I'm really not asking for much. I could live without seeing the stars clearly again, and would be greatly troubled if I couldn't drive. But please...never let my vision fail so completely that I'm unable to swat an October mosquito.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Guest Post: Goodnight, Sweet Princess

My friend Cathi recently put her down her 15-year-old Labrador retriever. The following guest post is Cathi's tribute to her beloved Maggie. As for me, I'll hug my Harry a little tighter tonight, and make sure to appreciate his sweet brown eyes and wagging tail on this day, and on all days forward. KMY

Goodnight, Sweet Princess
By Cathleen Hoefler

Age and disease have ravaged you beyond what I had seen. Either my eyes have been unwilling or your accepting nature has belied the deterioration. Today we can all see. The life in your body is slipping away as surely as the tufts of fur that drop to the floor with every movement. You respond to my voice when I enter, catch my scent, though who knows what your eyes can tell you now. You tremble at my touch and your legs threaten to buckle under the weight of my arms draped across your body, so I lighten my embrace.

What else can I do for you now but stop this suffering?

There is little left of your outward beauty and yet you are beautiful. You remain as valiant as a knight, mortally wounded, stoic and dignified to the end. I wish to have been more present to you here at the end. I have satisfied myself with reports of lazy, sleep-filled days and satisfying meals. I can only hope there is truth in them.

Now is my time to act; to serve you as you have so patiently served me.

The activity around us begins to recede as we enter into that space of transition. It is a place reserved for those who must cross the river and for those who will assist them at the form. Others too dull to appreciate the sacred intimacy of this place make clumsy efforts to communicate and are quickly dismissed.

She who has the skill to guide you arrives, hearing even those words I do not speak aloud. Likewise, she answers, audibly for some, but as much with her eyes for me. We move to a quiet chamber. The door closes behind us and the outside world disappears completely. It is meaningless.

Someone must take you from me to place an IV, allowing them to gently push you across the water. You hesitate to leave my side, but obey, as you always do. When you return, you lower yourself painfully one last time onto the blanket they have provided. Your head comes to rest easily in my arms, and there is no more cancer, no foul odor of decay. You are regal and by my side, where you have been so many times before.

The first sedation enters your bloodstream and you exhale deeply, as pain and anxiety fade away. I feel your broken body relax. We stay like that for awhile, your two young charges sitting behind us. I sense their sadness and uncertainty in watching this tragedy play out. It is right that they are here. They too have loved you and laughed with you, but I do not look at them now. This time is between you and me to wander the paths of our life together...

You arrived abused, no doubt discouraged by the ignorance and cruel capacity of those from whom you deserved neither. Patiently you gave your heart, without bitterness and with unwavering trust.

There you are, bounding across a snowy yard.

There you are, stretched before the fire, content next to me in the winter moonlight.

Now you are sitting upright and proud in the driver's seat waiting for me to return to the car -- my chauffeur, mildly offended I think by my laughter.

Now you look up innocently, even while the loaf of bread you have stolen lies open on the floor nearby.

Can we count how many times I paused at my desk, moving my legs ever so gently, smiling to find you patiently curled at my feet, though I never saw you enter the room? So many nights I slept curled like a pretzel, preferring your presence to the ability to straighten myself, or woke sensing your absence, hanging an arm over the edge, seeking the reassuring touch of your fur. You would always raise your head, ever present, ever watchful, surprised, perhaps, that I would question your whereabouts.

You take with you now a piece of my heart and reminders of a unique time in my life. A time filled with dreams, some satisfied beyond expectation, some left broken along the way. A time remembered in part as more than I had hoped for and yet, increasingly, as less than it may have appeared. In any case, the years and memories will always pay tribute to the continuity of your love and devotion...

She enters again. I stroke your ear with one hand while the other holds your head closer to me. I bend and whisper, "Do not be afraid," although I know it is you offering that silent guidance to me.

After your noble heart ceases to beat, after everyone else has departed, I stretch out full length beside you in silence, taking comfort from you even now. Longing, for a moment, to join you and leave behind the chaos beyond this room.

You are on the far shore, free at last from the confines of this body. Your eyes are bright and your spirit is swift on the wind. Say hello to all who await you...to Grandpa, and Molly. And visit me now and again, Sweet Princess, on a snowy day or quiet night.

Goodbye, my Maggie. I will always love you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Saving Money in a Tough Economy: Tip 37

Kitchen Storage

We're a plastic society. It's time to rethink how we store food. Do you have glass or ceramic bowls in the house? Put the leftovers there, and cover the bowl with a plate rather than using plastic wrap or aluminum foil. You'll save money and have the added benefit of being able to stack more in your refrigerator. A tin foil junkie? Then at the very least, wash and reuse as many times as possible, then recycle. Plastic wrap is an expensive and unnecessary evil. Purge it from your shopping cart. Ditto on zip lock bags unless you're going to rewash and reuse over and over.

Get all 101 tips in 101 Tip$ From My Depression Era Parents (or how to save a few bucks in an economic decline), available at amazon.com.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Discoveries: Columbus and Me

I celebrated an age-old American tradition over the Columbus Day weekend: the yard sale.

My yard sale experiences are along the lines of Mary Tyler Moore's parties in that they never come off quite right. Last year I had one late. In fact, it was so late (in early November) that it snowed. As you can imagine, I didn't get the customer traffic I'd hoped for.

So this year I decided to have a sale on this beautiful weekend, when temps were warm and the sun was shining. Unfortunately, there are rules in the yard sale circuit, the primary one (I was informed by one expert in this area) being that sales are supposed to be held on Friday or Saturday, but NEVER on Sunday. Who knew? I figured with Columbus Day being on Monday, Sunday was the perfect day to set out all that stuff I no longer want and wait for the throngs to arrive.

It wasn't exactly a bad turn out, but it was a weird one. Most of my customers were men, and men shop differently than women. When a woman comes to a yard sale, she drifts. She goes from table to table. She picks up merchandise, studies it, ponders, and maybe puts it back, maybe adds it to her shopping bag. She usually comes with a friend. There is a fluidity to women at lawn sales. Peering through my kitchen window at women in my back fence perusing my now cast-off items is a bit like sitting on a beach watching the ocean: the ladies move in a wave, ebbing and flowing, gliding across the grass. As a woman, this method of shopping makes sense to me. We flit, running inquisitive fingers across old Christmas ornaments, baskets, glassware, and toys in something like a shopping dance. The yard sale is a treasure hunt, and we think maybe, just maybe, we'll come across a painting or a vase that holds value much higher than the twenty-five-cent price tag.

Then there are men. Men park their vehicles and march, determined, to the proprietor (in this case, me). Men don't shop, they arrive with a purpose, and ask purposeful questions:

"Do you have any windows?"
"Any mattresses back there?"
"Selling any mirrors?"
"I'm looking for fishing poles, got any?"

There is no drifting, no flitting, no hopeful expressions that treasure may be buried there under the leopard futon cover and the pile of sweaters. If I answered no to any of the pointed questions, the men, with few exceptions, nodded their heads, climbed back into their vehicles and drove away. Happily, I had plenty of items the men wanted, for the most part practical things like desks and tables. In spite of holding the sale on the wrong day and enticing mostly males into my cluttered yard, I made out okay. The men spent the "big" money: $40 for a lawnmower, $10 for the credenza, $3 apiece for windows. Bills were pulled from manly wallets and passed to my waiting hands. The ladies...well they tended to pay in change, with one nice woman nine cents short to cover the cost of her dollar item (I took the 91 cents and waved her on, wondering about the thought process of a person who goes to a yard sale with three quarters, a dime, a nickel, and a penny). In any case, it was an interesting day that featured drifting change-paying women and strong-willed men who knew why they came. Fascinating, that even in something so benign as the lawn sale the genders are so different. Discovering that, in itself, was worth screwing up and having my sale on the wrong day.

Of course, it wouldn't have been a neighborhood sale without the resident smart alec, who pointed at my sign reading "garage sale" and asked "How much is the garage? Hahahaha!" Even he didn't bother me. Sunday was a knock-out day, I sat on my porch and visited with friends who passed through my yard, drank iced tea, made a few bucks on things I was going to throw out anyway, and observed human nature as defined by the American yard sale. Not a bad way to spend an Indian summer afternoon.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Are They Idiots, or Do They Just Not Give a Damn?

I am truly beginning to think that a great majority of the human race has turned stupid.

I've been having trouble with my eyes lately...red like I've been crying for hours, and blurry vision. Sometimes they even twitch. There have been a number of unofficial diagnoses from well-meaning friends: allergies (hay fever, dog, cat, dust), dehydration, change of season. For a month now I've been struggling with this problem, which is much worse in the morning. Normally I can read without benefit of contacts or prescription glasses, but need either of the above to see distances. For the last four or so weeks I can't see with my glasses on, and can't read without lenses until much later in the day, and even then my vision hasn't been right. The left eye has been distinctly worse than the right.

So today I went out of town on errands and decided to stop in at a local vision place to get a check-up. When I walked in I noticed that a couple of teenagers seemed to be running the show. I went to the desk and asked the girl if I could see someone, explaining my situation. I said in what I'm confident was clear English "I'm having trouble seeing."

"Uh," she said. "Maybe you should go see an ophthalmologist."
"Yes, well, that certainly is an option but at the moment I'd just like to have someone here take a look. Can they determine if I have allergies?"
"Uh," she said. "Yes."
"Is there someone here who can give me an exam?"
"Uh," she said. "Yes."
I raised my eyebrows at her.
"Uh," she said. "Okay, fill out this form."

Whereupon she handed me a clipboard clamped onto a foot-long sheet of paper. On the paper, as far as I could tell, were about 30 questions in tiny little typeface. To my blurry eyes, the type looked like fleas.

"I can't fill this out, dear," I said to her. "As I mentioned, I CAN'T SEE."

She gave me a blank stare, one you might expect to get from a parakeet peering out from a cage. She didn't offer ask me these evidently vital questions and fill the form out herself. She just looked at me, her mouth hanging open in a little "O."

Okay, I'm thinking. I'm dealing with a moron here. So I asked what I thought was a perfectly reasonable question considering I was in a store with about a thousand pairs of eyewear mounted on the walls around me.

"Do you have some reading glasses I can borrow?"
"Uh," she said. "No."

Resisting the urge reach across the desk and throttle her, I set the clipboard down and said "Fine. I'll go someplace else." She didn't try to talk me out of it, didn't say "Oh hey, wait, of course we have reading glasses here," or "I'll fill out the form for you, I can tell by your bloodshot eyes you must be in some discomfort." She simply let me go, not caring a bit that whatever money I was willing to pay the business wasn't happening. I imagine she was shrugging as I turned my back to her and thinking, "Whatever."

Happily, it didn't take long for me to find another place to get medical attention. The nice receptionist there asked me a couple of questions, wrote the answers down herself, and hustled me into the doctor's office. And it was a good thing. I have a viral infection in both corneas which, according to the examiner "look like sandpaper," have been instructed to avoid wearing contacts for at least a month, and maybe for as long as six months. I was given drops and ointment, then scheduled another appointment in two weeks. My vision right now is awful (forgive any typos that I might not catch), but I'm at least relieved to have had the issue identified and that some medical folks are keeping track of the problem. We're attacking it head-on, with treatment and monitoring. 

Maybe I'm looking at the past through rose-colored glasses (no pun intended), but I don't recall life being so trying "back then." It shouldn't be necessary, when somebody needs medical attention, to fight to find competent people. There's so much talk about unemployment, about throngs of smart, capable folks out of work. So why in the world is this brainless teenybopper in a position to turn someone away and potentially cause damage to a person's vision? Because indeed, had I given up and gone home, or had I been unable to find the competent people I needed, who knows what might have been the result?

Maybe I'm the stupid one to think that life just shouldn't be this hard. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Luck Was A Lady Saturday Night

I was on my way to dinner over the weekend to a lovely local restaurant called Michael's, in Waterville. There were four of us in the car, all women, two in the front (myself and the driver), two in the back. Now that autumn is edging closer, skies and roads were dark. As women will, we were chattering away about mostly nothing, enjoying each other's company, looking forward to a good meal.

The deer appeared out of nowhere. I've heard people say such things after hitting a deer: "He appeared out of nowhere!" but I think I've never quite believed it. In all the years I've been driving I've probably seen hundreds of deer lurking around by the side of the highway, sometimes standing on the center line, even a few times running alongside the car. Still, I couldn't quite get my head around the idea that something that big could appear quite literally from nowhere and be in front of a vehicle moving at 55 miles an hour. I'm here to tell you. They can.

One minute we were chatting and laughing and the next minute there was a doe in front of us, right in front us not a foot from the hood. It was though she popped up out of a hole in the macadam or was dropped from above, a movie trick impossible to believe. And by some miracle, our driver missed her. We all saw her and gasped, her graceful shape right there illuminated by the headlights. There was a second, truly no more than that, when we all inhaled and said things along the lines of "Oh my God!" and "Watch out!" Within that second I could feel the relief in all of us that we hadn't hit her. The deer immediately on her tail wasn't so lucky. There was a huge thud followed at once by pieces of what turned out to be the grill flying up past and over the windshield. I'm not quite sure what happened next, although I'm told I grabbed the driver's arm (a bad idea). Also miraculously, the car never veered from the road, great testament to our driver's abilities in spite of my claw-hold on her elbow. We slowed and looked back. And again in only seconds, the deer was lying in the road, and when we looked again, she was gone. We don't know if she survived, but we think (well, I think) she did. There was no blood, no carcass, no deer, not even off to the side. The entire event happened so fast it was almost as though it hadn't happened at all.

After, it was interesting to observe how each of us reacted. One person was concerned about the condition of the car (not so good). One was worried that we might not make it to the restaurant (we did, with our trusty vehicle trundling into the parking lot and heaving one last gasp before slowing and rattling into a now smoke-filled spot). One was worried about the condition of the deer. And one announced brightly, "I hit a duck once!"

I so admire the human brain. Each of us had a completely different take on the incident: pragmatism, concern about a safe arrival, empathy for the animal, and anecdotal humor. Why, I wondered later, didn't we all have the same reaction, or at least reactions that were similar? I suppose each of us has had experiences in our life that trigger the processing of anything that happens to us. The driver, my cousin, was the pragmatist. Her mind went first to damage to the car and how much this was going to cost to fix considering she's now, counting this one, hit four deer in her life. My sister spun into take-care-of-immediate-business mode...what if we can't make it to our destination? My friend Liz visiting from the south, ever a glass half full type, quickly realized we were all okay and felt a need to recount her duck tale. I've never been in a vehicle that's hit a deer, either as driver or passenger. My thoughts were for the poor thing we'd just run down.

All this makes me wonder how anyone can ever agree. There's so much going on in our heads, based on our past and our present and our imaginings of what's to come. We all seemed so alike before the deer, verbal and witty and social. We're all successful career people, all in the same age vicinity, have traveled some and now live in smallish towns. Our backgrounds are similar, our lives not all that different in the big scheme of things. Yet in a situation we all shared our brains kicked into completely opposite gears and branched out, feeling around for what, for each of us, made sense and maybe in some way helped us to process what could have been a real disaster. If not for my cousin's superb ability to stay calm and focused, the car might have spun out of control, flipped over and killed every one of us. And if not for that first deer we missed, a flipped-over car might well have happened. That doe was our angel, giving all of us a milisecond to prepare for the one we hit.

The next morning we were all a bit achey...backs and shoulders and necks. The car, which protected us well, got the worst of it (a little nod to the Subaru people here). I don't know what my cousin and sister and friend are thinking about the incident right now, if in fact they're thinking about it at all. But I am. I'm thinking about those two deer, and how I hope they both made out okay. I'm also thinking about their materializing from nowhere, and what a stern reminder it was that life is short. I'm thinking that I'm glad to be home and safe, at least for the moment, and that my being able to take my next breath is pretty much all about luck.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Library Fundraiser for Sherburne Library

Hey locals, Gilligan's is sponsoring a Sherburne Library fundraiser today (Oct 3). Percentage of your order goes to the library fund, so if you have a hankering for ice cream or a great hamburger, please go to Gilligan's today and mention the library!

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum