Thirty-one Days

Today is the last day of January. It's been a long month. Thirty-one days. Six other months of the year have thirty-one days, but only January drags out so long. It could be the freezing temperatures. It could be the biting wind. It could be the absence of sunlight. Whatever the reason, January is longer than any other month. I'm always glad to turn the calendar page and see February ushering in chocolates and roses and love.

I spent this last day of my least favorite month out doing errands. At lunch I ordered a cobb salad with honey mustard dressing. The order taker got everything down, but when she read it back to me, my dressing order came out as "holy mustard". I told her it sounded good. She couldn't stop laughing.

One item on my agenda today was to return some clothing items that didn't fit. I had slacks and a dress for one store and jeans for another. I didn't want to do this chore because my receipts were missing. Losing stuff like receipts is not my custom. I felt bad to ask for a refund without one. But I did it, and I was amazed at the smoothness of the transaction. It was customer service, indeed.

Of course, I turned around and spent my refund. I needed the purse and the sweaters. I tend to freeze year-round, so the sweaters will help keep the chill away. The purse is a beautiful shade of green that has already made me forget January.

All in all, the last day of January was a good day. The people I encountered were pleasant. I finished everything on my checklist. Even the sun was shining. My least favorite month wrapped up on a positive note. What made today better than the thirty dreary days preceding? It had to be the holy mustard. I'll have to remember it for next January. 


Book Review - How to Steal a Dog

When it comes to writing for children, Barbara O'Connor just gets it. Unlike most adults, she seems to remember how a child thinks. This ability allows an author to walk in the child's shoes as the story unfolds.

Barbara O'Connor has written a number of novels for middle grade children, and I've become absorbed in each one I've read. In her book, How to Steal a Dog, she combines the reality of being homeless with spunkiness and humor. Georgina lives in a car with her younger brother, Toby, and her mother. She knows it's not normal to live as they do, washing up in service station restrooms. Georgina is afraid someone at school will discover her secret, so she wants to help her struggling mother get enough money to rent a place to live. She hatches a plan to steal a dog, return it to the owner, and collect a fat reward.

Georgina finds Willy, the perfect dog to steal. His owner lives in a big house, and she surmises rich people will pay large rewards. Nothing goes quite as planned, though. What seemed like a good idea turns out to cause all kinds of problems. Georgina wrestles with choosing between right and wrong.

I'd recommend this book for elementary school aged children. It would be eye-opening for more fortunate children to read about Georgina's struggles. It's also the kind of book that makes a wonderful read-aloud in a classroom.



My Sign

I don't know why people confide in me. They tell me things I have no business knowing. They tell me details I don't want to know. Someone must have plastered a sign on my back inviting strangers to talk to me about private matters.

Listening is something I do well. I've always preferred to listen rather than talk, but maybe we should be introduced before you start spilling your secrets. Some topics require we know each other's names, at least.

I must have been wearing my sign today. Along with other shoppers, I perused the supplement aisle at a pharmacy. A well-groomed, attractive woman nearby snatched a bottle from a lower shelf and held it up in front of my face.

"Cranberry," she said.

I nodded, not knowing where this was going.

"I had terrible bladder and kidney infections before I started taking this. My daughter said I should just drink cranberry juice. Not me, I hate cranberry juice."

I nodded again. I didn't know this woman, but I now know her history with urinary tract ailments.

Something similar happened to me while at the ophthalmologist's office. A woman seated near me related the details of how her son was fired from his job. He held a professional position and had been accused of wrongdoing. I am now privy to who, what, when, where, and why. I hope I'm not called to testify in court.

This sort of thing happens to me often, and I'm always amazed. Are people so lonely they will seek out a stranger and start a narrative about their personal life? What causes such a lack of filter for subject matter? I suppose it's the fault of the sign I wear. Now if I can just get my husband to tell me what he wants for dinner.



Top 10 Choices for 2018

Ready or not, 2018 is here. After the hundreds of calendar pages I've turned over, dates don't worry me much any more. Every day is a good day to me, but I do sit up and take notice of a new year. If for no other reason, it's always good to know the year because a nurse or doctor may check my orientation, and I do like to pass tests.

Each year we have to take the bad along with the good, but, wow, it seems like 2017 was extra full of sadness and evil. There are so many things we have no control over, yet we have choices every day that can make a positive difference for ourselves and others.

Here's a list of choices that could prevent at least some of the needless unhappiness and suffering in 2018. Starting with what we can control will make life better for ourselves and those around us.
  1. Drive sober and unimpaired.
  2. On the same note, being distracted while driving is just as dangerous. Put the cell phone away.
  3. Choose kind words. 
  4. Be aware that your tone of voice can hurt as much as words.
  5. Talk to your children, and not just to order them around. TALK to them.
  6. Laugh with your children.
  7. Know there are two sides to every story.
  8. Clean up your own messes. Can I get an amen?
  9. Help those who are weaker.
  10. And the gold standard for all circumstances, treat others like you want to be treated.