Friday, May 20, 2011
I am a wearer of gloves. I don't just mean I wear gloves in the winter, the way most people around here do. I wear gloves from September to May, leather driving gloves that I have in at least five colors (black, brown, navy, red, tan...I had a fuchsia pair, but I seem to have lost one somehow.) I also have ski-type gloves and mittens.
I have work gloves - lined, unlined, rubber-palmed, canvas, tall gloves for roses, goat-skin, waterproof, water-resistant (which I've discovered means nothing at all.) If I know I'm going to be getting wet, I'll wear latex single use gloves under my canvas gloves, to keep my hands not only dry but also warm. Unlike virtually every other professional gardener I know, I never go into the garden bare-handed. Never.
In the house I have the regular dish-washing gloves, of course, but I also have nitrile gloves for solvents and a pair of tall welding gloves. I also have special gloves with which to pet cats that are shedding (don't work.) I have probably three boxes of those single use latex gloves - I rarely clean without them, and I even will use a pair if I have to mess around extensively with raw poultry. I don't put my hands in water to wash a single cup without sliding on gloves first.
I don't have OCD (I do keep hand sanitizer in the car and a teensy one in my purse, but doesn't every one nowadays?) I don't have Reynoud's Syndrome, although outside my hands and feet do tend to get uncomfortably cold before other people's seem to. I do have sensitive dry skin, which is probably where this all started.
I even have *drum roll, please* an extra pair of gloves in each car's glove compartment. Hey, you never know.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Good Lord, I'm only halfway? This gets more difficult every day, which, I suppose, is rather the point of the exercise.
Number fourteen is such a basic part of my character that I don't usually think of it as special, or unique, but I suppose it is: I am extremely good at entertaining myself, and can Wait with calm, which was particularly useful when the children were at that age when they had to be driven everywhere. As we live pretty far from anywhere at all, it was rarely worth the effort to drive them someplace, come home, and then drive out again to retrieve them.
If I thought about it ahead of time, I'd pack a book or a magazine, some sketching supplies and a snack. If not, as was usually the case, I could rummage around in the car until I found something of that sort. I could also just sit and watch the people or walk and watch the people or whatever happened to be around me. If it got dark, as often happened, I could go back to my car and nap - I've always been able to fall asleep any time, anywhere. People have remarked, "You mean you just sat there for two hours, *waiting*?!?" as if it were unthinkable to be able to do so. Sure, why not?
I rarely turn on the tv in the house, unless there's something specific on I want to watch, and almost never the radio. In the car, assuming I'm going somewhere alone, I immediately switch on NPR, but in the house it rarely occurs to me to do so - probably because my radio has aerials that must be fussed with and positioned, which is a bother. If I have a passenger in the car, I *never* turn on the radio, in case they wish to converse; if they don't, then I'm perfectly content to cruise along in silence. I'm always surprised when a passenger leans over and turns on the radio, saying, "Let's have some music, shall we?" I rarely snap it off, but I almost always want to. The reception out here is sketchy at best, and the radio is rarely, it seems, playing something we want to hear, so we have to go through that whole "scanning" thing, which I find to be irritating in the extreme.
I know people who always have either the television or the radio - or both - on in their homes. They snap it on first thing in the morning and fall asleep to its sound at night. I think if I had that constant nattering away in the background, I'd be thoroughly 'round the bend in a matter of days. One of the things I've always enjoyed about drawing - and I don't draw particularly well, as artists go - is how very quiet it gets inside your head when you're concentrating on line.
Maybe it's the way I was raised - largely in the quiet, the way I am now - or maybe it's because there's so much chaos inside my head that audio "noise" overloads me. I honestly don't know. My children have escaped my special quality/affliction, and can spend days with things in their ears, listening away to whatever it is. My husband used to have the NFL network on during football season so much that I could recite the various opinion segments.
I suspect that the folks who always have to have noise in their surroundings are afraid of the silence, afraid of what they might hear their own brains say to them or observe. I don't know, really - maybe they're just a lot more outgoing and people-friendly than I am. Or afraid they'll miss something. I get a daily newspaper (I admit, mostly for the cartoons and the crosswords, but I do glance through the important bits) so I'll find out eventually if it is something important.
There are two times I watch a lot of tv: when I don't feel well - then I'll catch up with the Kardashians, see what's cooking on the food network (invariably something is being sprinkled with goat cheese - I really ought to get some goats), watch bros hunt ghosts or watch people bring curious things in to pawn. And the only other time is when I miss my husband too much and the house is just too quiet, then I'll use the noise to distract me.
I just realized I've been sitting here a good five minutes, listening to the cat snore and watching the chickadees argue with the goldfinches over who has first dibs on the seeds. If you saw me, you'd think I was actually watching, or thinking some deep thought. Honestly, I'm just sitting here. In the words of Satchel Paige (one of my heroes, incidentally), "Sometimes I sets and thinks, and sometimes I just sets." Me too, Satch, me too.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
These two are related - I could probably make them one quality, but I'm getting dangerously close to the stage of "I can tell a daffodil from a dandelion" for a special quality - so I'm stretching them into two separate Special Qualities.
My first entry here is that I can readily admit when I don't know something. It doesn't puncture my ego in the least to ask for help, even of the most basic nature, or to look for information. This became most apparent when we moved to the country ten years ago.
In academia, you're expected to know the workings of your own field, and that's it - if you're in Mathematics, no one expects you to know about European History. Out here, though, it seems that you're supposed to have this vast, overarching knowledge of All Things Agricultural, from being able to identify chickens (and I don't mean like, "Look there's a chicken!" but more like, "There's a Rough-legged Joneses Matterhorn chicken!") to being able to tell if an electric fence is electrified without grabbing it to see if you get a shock *cough*
I've found that most people are willing, even eager, to demonstrate their knowledge of things, ("Me: Does this take gasoline or diesel? ..... long pause....Other person: Diesel. Most tractors take diesel..." ) and for the occasional wise-ass who insists on smirking and commenting, "You didn't know that, huh?" I've been known to reply, "No, and thank you for fixing it for me. The next time you need help with generative grammars, don't hesitate to give me a shout." Gracious, no. But with my upbringing (Northeast urban all the way) they're lucky they didn't get ... an entirely different reaction.
Part two of this is my ready willingness to admit that I was wrong about something. It can be anything from purchasing the wrong item, ("Oops. Wrong part.") to naming the wrong singer/rapper,( "Fifty cents? Fifty cents for what?") to completely misconstruing someone's intentions,( "Wow....I'm so....totally off base. I'm sorry.") I am also capable of repeating my apologies until the other person stops telling me every detail of my transgression over...and over....and over... (see above about upbringing.)
I think part of these is based on the fact that, as a voracious reader and general collector of trivia in addition to - and at the expense of - useful stuff, I know a fair number of things. But hand in hand with that is a growing awareness of just how much Stuff there is to know about, and the impossibility of knowing any but a teensy slice of that whole. The other part is a dislike of contention and wasting of time - I really *don't* want to argue about whatever it is, and if I confess immediately, then we can both get back to what we were doing.
Mostly, though, I think it's because, as I get older and see more of Life, I recognize the number of times I was absolutely certain about something and turned out to be dead wrong, sometimes with fairly disastrous results. I've learned that being right, at the expense of someone's feelings or a great deal of your own time, isn't worth it. I've realized that allowing someone to believe something inaccurate isn't always a bad thing: John's mother was sure that we'd named a baby after her - we hadn't, but what harm did it do to allow her to believe it?
We waste too much time arguing about silly stuff - who knew what, said what, meant what, where it came from, when we got it - that could better be spent on fun stuff, ("Who cares where we got It - let's weld It to that Thing! Won't that be awesome?!") and appreciating our beautiful world.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
A note on yesterday's blog:
Another thing I absolutely cannot do - and rarely admit to, because for others it's so easy they just don't understand how I can *not* do it - is tell which burner will light from looking at the diagrams on the range top. Somehow I seem to envision the diagrams as being printed on the top of a pizza box lid, so that when opened, the diagram in the upper left of the open lid would refer to the lower (or front) left quadrant when closed (imagine if the cheese stuck to the lid, where the cheese came from on the pie and then where it would be on the lid when you open the box. Complicated, isn't it? And wrong to boot. Yet as nearly as I can tell, that's how I do it. I can't seem to grasp that the lid, rather than opened away from me, is simply slid up from horizontal to vertical.
I'll leave to your imagination the disastrous meals, the scorched pans, the melted coffee carafes, the still-frozen side dishes and the times I was damned lucky I didn't burn the house down.
Two years ago, when we remodeled the kitchen, I purposely chose my stove with this problem in mind. The ceramic top is lovely, the warming drawer is nice, the self clean/steam clean is nice, all the little possibilities are probably nice (I don't use most of them because I...just don't) but the selling feature, for me, was the extra warming burner (controlled by a push-button, not a knob) in the back row. This means that each of the four control knobs has a diagram over it that has *three* circles in the top row and only *two* circles in the bottom row. I can tell left from right without difficulty, and now I can properly differentiate back from front! TRIUMPH!
As far as I can tell, I'm the only adult I know for whom this is a genuine problem. Others may chuckle and say, "Oh, yeah, I do that, too" but they don't really. They've never stood in front of the stove, pushing with the combined force of three good eastern universities, and still not been able to turn the right knob. Left/right, clockwise/counterclockwise, and lefty-loosey righty-tighty all seem to be correctly installed.
I also have a disastrous effect on toasters and doorknobs. Doorknobs which have let one in and out without difficulty for years - centuries, even - will come off in my hand (and the teensy screw invariably rolls under the radiator.) I have a huge collection of replacement doorknobs, screws, the metal piece that goes through the center, the bit that you put in the gouge in the door, all of it. When the inevitable happens, I'm always ready. Almost always, anyway. One of my interior doors still opens by means of a stout piece of string looped through where the doorknob should be.
In my world there is no such thing as an old toaster. At least not a functional old toaster, unless you count the metal rack that you put over the gas flame on the stove. That one can't help but work (unless you fail to remove the toast before it is aflame, but that's not the toaster's problem, that's yours.) I buy a toaster, take it home, plug it in, tentatively put in a slice or two of bread, and then, moments later, up pops delicious warm toast!
This happens a few times, sure. Maybe even a week or two. Then slowly, slowly, my presence seems to corrupt the integrity of the new appliance. It may now only toast on one side of the bread, or perhaps no longer allow itself to be regulated by the Light-Dark Selector. It may periodically make perfect toast, then chuck it behind the counter, so you have to remove the cabinetry to retrieve it. Or it may decide to make the perfect toast, then refuse to give it to you, watching you with its little orange glowy eyes while you frantically stab at the cancel button, watching your toast slowly incinerate. Needless to say, I eat a lot of plain bread and understand why my mother always made toast under the broiler.
My late husband had the same effect on vehicle gas gauges, but I'll save that tale for another rainy Sunday. Have a good rest-of-weekend, all. I may be back later with another Special Quality or two...we'll see how the day goes.
There's a cat snoring here somewhere. Perhaps I'll find it and force it to snuggle with me.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
My sense of direction outside is excellent. You could air lift me into the woods, point me in a direction, and I would emerge hours later right where you wanted me. This works equally well, or nearly so, in cities of any size and in cars, whether or not I'm driving. I have no explanation for this, other than the fact that, as a child, I was "encouraged" to play outside from dawn until dusk, and it was always assumed I'd find my way home when I got hungry enough. But that was true for almost every kid of my generation, some of whom now couldn't navigate their ways out of broom closets.
Sadly, this does not extend to indoor areas. I have to have special rules for parking at malls: I always park at the Macy's, outside the linens department. It doesn't matter whether I need anything at Macy's, or even anything at "this end of the mall"; I simply know where my car is, because of The Parking Rule, and I can follow the signs to the correct door. Once I'm outside again, I'm good to go, even when I take my daughter's Taurus which blends in with every other gold mid-size sedan in the parking lot. I can spot it immediately.
Indoors, even in places I know well, like my doctors' or dentist's office, I come out the door of my room and peer worriedly up and down the corridors until some kind soul steers me to the desk. At the bookstore, I walk out into the mall and turn....left. Why? I dunno. Right works equally well, which is to say, not at all. I have no explanation for this conundrum.
Which brings me to my next special quality: I am good with words. I suspect this is at least partially because I read voraciously as a child, and partially because I was an only child and was spoken to largely by grown-ups, in grown-up speech. I loved to eavesdrop on said grown-ups, being completely fascinated by this advanced life form, and developed an excellent vocabulary quite early on.
I spell extremely well, too, or did until I hit about fifty, and now, to my horror, automatically spelling things correctly is slipping away. This isn't helped by SpelChek or by my cell phone, which insists that it knows which word I meant to type in on the the teensy keyboard and so substitutes a word of its own choosing, resulting in the transmission of texts consisting of complete gibberish. But we can talk about that another day. When I was a child, I lasted so long in the regional spelling bee that I eventually threw the contest: to David Ochs, on the word "writhe", off of which I intentionally left the final "e". I didn't want to go to Washington DC anyway (and David didn't last long. So there.)
Given all that delicious accuracy with words, I cannot understand why I can't unscramble them. I'm excellent at Cryptograms and crosswords - heck, I even do them in ink until about Friday - but my ability to unscramble words was unveiled dramatically when my younger daughter was in third grade. She had to unscramble words for homework, asked me for help, and I couldn't help her. I had to get her sister to help us both. It was....pathetic.
I so envy people that play Scrabble. Such a classic game, and it looks like great fun. Everyone sitting 'round the table by the fire, drinking port, drawing little tiles and plotting ingenious ways to use Qs and Zs in particular places. Sadly, though, I won't be joining them. I'll be out in the den watching the hockey game.
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