Following the rules

I was never a big rule breaker. For the most part, I’ve been law abiding all my life.

There are two exceptions, however — I often exceed the speed limit and I rarely read instructions.

I’ve tamed the lead foot by using my cruise control when on the highway. My ratio of speeding tickets to time spent on the highway dipped drastically once I was able to set a speed and keep my foot off the gas pedal.

But instructions, that’s a tough one.

I simply don’t like instructions. They take too long to read, they often don’t make sense, and I always think I can do it without instructions.

And I’m usually wrong.

So, for once, I’m doing it the right way. I wrestled my new microwave out of it’s Styrofoam-packed box, plugged it in, and then retired to the couch to read the instruction manual cover to cover.

OK, I skipped the section on child proofing. There are no children here and the only one who would be befuddled by that would be me. So I skipped that section.

But I read about dangerous metals, greased-clogged vents and how to defrost meat. I never read any of that with my other microwave ovens.

Will this make me a better cook?

I doubt it. After all, this is a microwave, an invention for those of us who don’t excel in the kitchen. And how badly did I need it? I waited approximately 19 hours after my old microwave stopped working to go out and buy a new one. The malfunctioning Emerson now sits in a hazardous waste bin at the County Landfill. It cost me $3 to drop it off and well worth the money.

As for my new LG, I’m sure it’s going to heat up a very tasty bowl of canned soup tonight. And who can ask more of an electric appliance?


And for a moment we tasted spring

Tonight, I will fall asleep breathing in the sweet scent of spring.

In the morning, I will awake to winter’s return.

That’s the way March is. And in Wisconsin, when March delivers 51 degrees, we’ve got no choice but to enjoy every second of it.

I tried to do that on my bike today only to discover my air compressor had given up the ghost and those winter-flat tires weren’t taking me anywhere. So I wheeled the bike back into the garage and looked around at the melting snow. Hmm, I just had to celebrate spring.

So I stripped the bed, popped the linens in the washer, and then trudged through the snow-ice mixture to the backyard and hung my sheets on the line. There was just enough warmth and wind to blow out the moisture and seal in the heady aroma of March.

Spring doesn’t get any fresher than March. When you get a spring day in March, you know it’s here but for a moment and its fresh, raw enthusiasm has to be captured immediately or lost until the next whim of Mother Nature.

And that will be true of this March day. But at least I can drift to sleep inhaling the sweet, wild scent of March and dream of long spring days to come.


Ray’s at bat

Anytime I worry about aches and pains, I think about my Uncle Ray.

Aches and pains are just an annoyance to Ray — something he has to overcome to play softball.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Ray is in his 80s?

Ray is one of my mom’s amazing siblings. If I hadn’t met these guys, I wouldn’t believe these stories are true. But I’ve met them and I’m amazed.

Ray and Jack and Mel are all a bit sports crazy. But they aren’t the kind of guys who sit on the couch for March Madness. They are athletes and they aren’t going to let a little knee pain or a sore shoulder send them back to the couch.

Only Mel has retired from the ranks and that’s because he’s an in-law so just couldn’t keep up with the Arlands. He suffered a heart attack while playing softball a few years ago and asked the doctor if he could go back to playing. Sure, his doc told him.  I could give you a pacemaker and when it stops, they could restart it.

So Mel doesn’t play anymore.

But Jack and Ray are still in the fray.

Ray plays softball, volleyball and tennis.

But doesn’t that hurt your joints, I asked him.

Sure, but when he had swelling in his knees, the doctor gave him a pill to take and the swelling went right down.

But isn’t tennis painful?

No problem, Ray said. “Well, I did have rotator cuff surgery.”

Evidently, that doesn’t count because he said it the way I would say, “Sure, I’ve got a splinter.”

Ray likes to bike, too, he said, but his wife doesn’t like him to do it on Sunday, which is apparently the only day he can fit that in. I’m guessing he doesn’t do an easy ride around the neighborhood. I’m thinking time trials.

So as you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, hoist a glass to my 100 percent Irish-American uncles. Drink to their good health and the safety of their joints because I want Ray and Jack to be able to hit that ball for another decade or two.

March of the sweaters

It is time for the March of the Sweaters.

This year, more than any in recent memory,  I am ready to pack away the tired wardrobe of winter. And in March, the longest month of winter, I start doing so by wearing all my winter sweaters one last time.

Goodbye snowflakes and snowmen. Goodbye pine trees and poinsettias. I will wear each of you one last time before folding you neatly away and carrying you up to the guest room’s dresser. There, you will sit quietly as we swelter through summer and dance into fall until you make an appearance again in November. I’d like to think I could wait until December to unearth you again, but I have a feeling I will need your cozy comfort come November.

Some of those sweaters are not making the trip back upstairs. Instead, they are going to a thrift store so they might warm some else’s winter. They were mistakes — too red, too thick, too filled with snowmen. Whatever their fault, I hope the next owner will enjoy them.

For now, I am contemplating the t-shirts of spring and summer. Alas, even with this delightful March thaw, it is too early for that. But as I make room in my dresser drawers, t-shirts bring the promise of May days spent in the garden, or refinishing projects in the garage, or walks through the neighborhood as I sniff for the scent of lilacs.

So keep marching sweaters. It’s time for you to go.


Giving it up

I’ve decided to give up the Polar Vortex for Lent.

Sure, I could do something more usual and easier. I used to focus on being kinder to at least one person at work. Since I’m retired, that won’t work.

I could cut out snacking. But I already planned to do that.

But it is obvious to me that all my fervor and concentration should be on giving up the Polar Vortex.

I was moved to this decision by a graph I saw on the NBC Nightly News. While Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel talked about the frozen Great Lakes and the delay of meteorological spring, I stared at a graph showing dark blue swirls covering Wisconsin. The forecast was for cold, cold and then more cold.

I have decided that is not acceptable.

No more complaining about 6 degrees below zero with a wind chill of 30 below. I can’t make it go away, but I can ignore it.

No more complaining about snow and the icy ruts on my driveway. I can’t melt it, but I can just drive over it.

No more complaining about bulky winter jackets and my reluctance to set foot outdoors. It’s going to be mind over matter and I’m going outside.

No, I won’t suddenly take up cross country skiing. But I will make myself return to daily walks. I will run errands even when the thought of going out makes me shiver.

It’s time to take this Polar Vortex by the throat and show it who’s boss.

And that, of course, would be the Polar Vortex. But at least we both know it now and I can act accordingly.