Archive for January, 2012


Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Good communication is the cornerstone of every successful marriage.  I think the fact that John and I make time to talk on a daily basis has helped us weather storms that capsize many marriages.  Unfortunately, the simple act of talking doesn’t insure good communication especially if you don’t speak the same language.  Just as Newspeak slowly replaced English in George Orwell’s novel 1984, my darling husband abandoned English in favor of Johnspeak many years ago.  I certainly don’t mean to imply that this was a diabolical plan to seize control of our marriage, at least I don’t think so.  However, he has such a unique way of expressing ideas that it has taken me almost 40 years to understand what he means.

Example #1:  Lack of Specificity

John: What are we doing this weekend?

Terri:  (Internal monologue: I just told him 20 minutes ago what we were doing this weekend.  Is this early onset Alzheimer’s?  Is he having mild strokes?) Are you serious?  I just told you a little while ago what was going on this weekend.

John:  I know but I wasn’t paying attention.  You don’t have to be nasty about it.  Just tell me again.

Terri:  When you don’t pay attention, could you start your sentences with, “I know you just told me but…”  Then I won’t have to worry that your brain is turning to mashed potatoes.

Example #2:  Lack of Focus

John:  Hey, you’ll never guess what happened today…(sentence trails off as he turns to look at something out the car window.)

Terri:  (Long pause) Well, what happened?

John:  When?

Terri:  Today!

John:  What happened today?

Terri:  I don’t know.  You said, “Hey, you’ll never guess what happened today,” so I want to know what happened.

John:  I wonder what I was going to say?

(I think this was the closest we ever got to an Abbott and Costello routine!)

Example #3:  Poor Word Choice

I helped John split wood for over an hour yesterday, and this was the ensuing conversation.

John:  You’re not planning on living anywhere else are you?

Terri: What?

John:  You’re not going to go off and leave me are you?

Terri:  That depends.  What have you done?

John:  Well, about the time the kids got big enough to be good help, they left.  You’re turning into pretty good help so I wanted to make sure you weren’t going to leave, too.

Terri:  Thanks, I think.

After all these year’s, I can finally translate Johnspeak.  What he meant was, “Thanks for helping with this task.  You are a great partner, and the love of my life.”  If you plan on living with the natives, you have to learn the language.

Old Dogs

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

When Champ, my Yorkie, made it to the ripe old age of 15, he became the oldest house dog we’ve ever had by a wide margin so this is my first experience dealing with the issues inherent in an aging pet.  When John, my darling spouse, made it to the ripe old age of 58, he became the oldest husband I’ve ever had by an even wider margin so this is my first experience dealing with the issues inherent in an aging mate.  Oddly enough, there are a lot of similarities between the two.

Digestion:  Champ has been on a special diet for a number of years due to his delicate digestive system and two attacks of pancreatitis.  If someone mistakenly gives him table scraps, the results aren’t pretty.  Fortunately, if he stays on his special diet, he gets along fine.  John started using antacids about 10 years ago graduating to Prilosec OTC and most recently prescription Nexium for heartburn and acid reflux.  If he eats something he knows he shouldn’t, the results aren’t pretty.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t stay on any special diet so from time to time, he needs some TLC.

Sleep:  Champ rarely sleeps through the night anymore.  On a good night, I only have to put him outside once, and he goes right back to sleep.  On a bad night he might be up 4 or 5 times, and he occasionally demands attention by whining until I hold him.  John rarely sleeps through the night anymore.  On a good night he only gets up once.  On a bad night he snores nonstop so I can’t get back to sleep after I am up with Champ.  Between the two of them, I am sleep deprived most of the time.

Infirmities:  Champ has cataracts and profound hearing loss.  This makes going outside an adventure because he can’t find the door to come back in or hear me call.  Fortunately, he can still see movement so when I see him scratching at the window rather than the door, I wave my arms and kick my legs until he notices the activity and wanders over.  He can still navigate around furniture, but occasionally he will walk into a corner and struggle to find his way out.  John has glasses and annoying hearing loss.  He refuses to wear the glasses all the time because he only needs them for reading.  That means they are constantly misplaced which of course means he is always asking me where his glasses are.  He doesn’t think his hearing loss is bad enough for medical intervention, but I often have to serve as his interpreter when he misses a line from a television show or a bit of conversation in a crowded room.  I have even threatened to start recording our conversations when we argue about whether or not I told him something.  Fortunately, he hasn’t gotten stuck in any corners yet.

Comfort: Champ knows when I’m having a bad day, and he will curl up in my lap to let me know everything will be okay.  He still gets excited every time I come home and dances around in circles to let me know he’s happy to see me.  John knows when I’m having a bad day, and he will take me for a walk or hold me in his arms to let me know everything will be okay.  He still gets excited every time I come home, but I haven’t been able to get him to dance in years.

Despite some of the challenges, having an old dog has its advantages.  They are familiar with your routine and they know the rules even if they don’t always follow them.  One thing is certain, I’m sticking with what I have because I don’t have the patience to house break another one.


Tough Like a Toad

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

I have always had an interest in the etymology of words and phrases.  Whether they are well documented and straightforward like “flavor of the month,” used in ice cream company advertisements in the 1930s and 1940s, or obscure and ambiguous like “hunky dory,” first used in print in 1862 with various explanations for its possible origin, the metamorphosis of language is fascinating.  That’s why I want to document for future generations where the phrase “tough like a toad” originated because I’m sure it will catch on and become an integral part of our lexicon.

When she was about 3 years old, our granddaughter, Azbey, visited us one weekend, and she found a toad just outside the back door.  She asked John to pick it up so she could get a closer look.  The toad kicked and squirmed vigorously in an effort to get free and Azbey said, “Stop, Grandpa.  You’re hurting him.”  John replied, “I’m not hurting him.  He just doesn’t want to be held.  Toads are actually pretty tough.”

Later that day, Azbey skinned her knees when she fell down in the driveway.  As John picked her up, he asked if she was okay.  She answered, “I’m fine, Grandpa.  I’m tough like a toad.”  Since she coined that phrase 3 years ago, several members of our family now use it to describe individuals showing courage and fortitude in the face of adversity.  I’m sure the expression “tough like a toad” will catch on, and if it doesn’t, then people are just crazy like a caterpillar!

We Are NOT the Clampetts

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Because many of the events we experience relate directly to John’s love of hunting, his dogs, and life in the country, a few of my co-workers think we are somewhat of a present day anomaly.  In other words, they think we are hillbillies, red-necks, and/or throwbacks to an earlier, simpler way of life.  I find myself constantly trying to explain how our adventures are not that different from other people who embrace the rural lifestyle, and we really do have a modicum of sophistication and refinement.  Unfortunately, two recent events have made me re-evaluate my claims.

The first incident was the discovery of a cow leg bone in my yard.  Apparently John didn’t do a very thorough job of burying the remnants of his most recent acquisition from the local feedlot, and the dogs thought it was more convenient to have part of the carcass outside the back door.  That alone wouldn’t have been a big deal, but his lack of concern regarding the removal of said leg bone was the clincher.

“Did you notice the dogs dragged a leg bone from that cow into the yard?” I asked.

“Yes, I didn’t do a very good job disposing of that last one,” John replied.

“So do you have a plan for getting rid of it?” I continued.

“As long as it’s this cold, I didn’t think it would be a problem.  It doesn’t stink and it’s not drawing flies.”

I tried to explain to him that that while eliminating stench and pests were important aspects of the quality of life I wanted to maintain, aesthetics also played an important role.  My complaints weren’t completely ignored, but it still took two days for the leg bone to disappear.

The second event occurred on the way to work this morning.  About 2 miles from the house I saw a dead raccoon on the road.  I immediately called John to tell him the location and condition, and he drove over to pick it up.  As I hung up from the call, I suddenly realized that living around a hillbilly is a lot like living with zombies.  Sooner or later you will become one.  That revelation caused me to reflect on the qualities that defined the most famous hillbilly family, the Clampetts.  Jed, Granny, Jethro, and Elly May might have been naive, but they were also honest, industrious, compassionate, loving, and dependable.  Their word was their bond, and they usually got the better of the greedy, self-centered, sophisticates they encountered each week.

I guess if I had to choose between simple and sophisticated, the decision would be a fairly easy one to make.  Don’t get me wrong, I will never ignore cow carcasses in the yard, but there are definitely worse things to be than the Clampetts.

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