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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Let’s Make A Deal

yard.sale.imageSo we had our community garage sale on Saturday. I had mixed feelings about participating in this sale since so many of my friends have told me about their frustration with the ratio of time invested in prepping for and participating in a garage sale vs. actual money received. Something along the order of earnings that might cover a fast-food meal if you’re lucky.

But my house is in desperate need of de-cluttering. And that is an understatement. I used to de-clutter by moving every few years. I didn’t purposely plan my moves in order to get rid of stuff, but that was a great byproduct of the uprooting. These moves occurred during my single days in my 20s, and involved moving from one apartment to another. So what I was basically divesting myself of pretty much involved a bunch of indeterminate paperwork.

house.imageThen I get married and we bought a house. It was a rather petite house, and although I was still clueless about the whole paperwork thing, there wasn’t a whole lot of space for the problem to get too inflated.

After a few years we moved across the country, so I once again got rid of a whole lot of stuff when we moved. This had been my pattern, and I expected things to continue this way until I was so old and forgetful that I wouldn’t really care what happened to my stuff.

The house we bought was almost twice the size of our previous home. I didn’t immediately realize that this was the first problem. And when the kids came, I was unprepared for the accompanying stuff that arrives – and continues to arrive – when you have children. I clung to the belief that within a few years, we’d move again. But that didn’t happen. In fact, over 20 years later, we’re still in the same house. And the stuff has bred and multiplied when no one was looking. I don’t want all this stuff but my head hurts every time I try to figure out what to do with it.

image.thermometerSo I decided to participate in the garage sale. We’ve had beautiful weather here in the South this month. Until this past week when the temperatures began dropping. And the night before the sale they plummeted into freezing territory. I still could have backed out. But I had piles of stuff ready to be re-homed, and I was determined to send them on their merry way. And there was certainly no room for sentimentality, which threatened to rear its maudlin head if I decided to back out of the whole thing.

I don’t know about you, but I am not an early-morning person. Seriously, you cannot pry my eyes open before the sun has made its appearance and is fairly high in the sky. And if you’ve ever participated in a garage sale,  you know you have to be up and at ’em in the dark of night, with all of your stuff set up and ready for the cheery, scary people who are early-morning people, laser-focused on getting deals, deals, deals.

Due to the big chill, few people came in the early-morning hours, but those who did show up were looking for serious bargains. I decided not to label things this time, but told them to make me an offer on the few larger items that I had laid out – otherwise most items were in the $1 – $5 range. Nothing that would break the bank there. So all jewelry was $1. A lady held up a necklace and bracelet.

necklace.image“How much?” she asked, waving them in the air in a circle over her head, to the extent that if she spun them any harder, she might just rise in the air and lift off.

“A dollar each,” I said, smiling.

She glared at me as if I was a child who had misbehaved in her classroom. “I thought it would be a dollar for both of them,” she chided.

“Oh, OK,” I said after a long pause. But really? Is it imperative that you bargain for everything at a yard sale, even if you know you’re already getting a great deal? I guess so. I proceeded to sell almost everything I had for next to nothing. This is good, I reminded myself through my chattering teeth and the realization I could no longer feel my toes. At least I’m de-cluttering, I told myself, repeating the mantra of my very insistent  friends.

One lady looked at the small pile of self-help books and cookbooks. One was about preventing diabetes. She thumbed through it.

“Do you think I should buy this?” she asked. “It looks like a lot of words.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond to this question tactfully. Finally, I said, “Well, do you have diabetes? Or are you worried about getting diabetes?”

“Well, yeah,” she responded. “But it looks like too much reading.” She then proceeded to pick up a book about low carbs. She thumbed through it as well. “There’s lots of words in this one, too. Do you think I should buy this one?”

book.image“It’s a good book,” I said, keeping a straight face. “If you’re interested in keeping your carb count down, you might want to read it.”

She put it down. “I don’t think I feel like reading all those words,” she decided. She picked up a cookbook and rifled through it. “I like this one. There’s not a lot of reading. It just gets right to the point, showing you what you can cook.”

I mentally pinched myself. “Yes, this one is a cookbook,” I said, holding back the torrent of giggles welling up inside me. “So it’s good that way.” Needless to say, she didn’t buy any of the books. But she was very entertaining.

game.imageBut then something happened that made the whole frigid, odd, not terribly lucrative morning worth everything. A grandmother and her young grandson approached. The boy was bright and charming beyond his years, and interested in everything. His eyes lit up when he saw the board games I had for sale. “Oh, look, you have my favorite games!” He turned to his grandmother. “Can we please get these games? I love them!” He did not say this in a demanding or whiny way. Just a sweet statement of the joy he felt upon seeing something he loved.

I couldn’t believe a child in this day and age would go so excited about seeing board games, but he was. Then he saw the Nok Hockey game and the excitement on his face was unmistakable. He ran over to show it to his grandmother.

“Please, please, please can I have this? I haven’t seen one of these in ages. I love this game so much!”

His grandmother smiled and agreed to buy it as well. I looked at this sweet and wonderful young boy and I felt as if I had just landed at the end of “Toy Story 3.” I turned to him and said, “I was feeling kind of sentimental about selling these games today because I have such fond memories of playing them with my kids. Knowing that you love these games and will continue to have fun with these games makes it so much easier to let them go. I never expected to find someone who would appreciate them so much. Thank you.”

And then things took a turn that was so unexpected and lovely, that my whole morning, and really, my whole outlook, turned inside out. I helped them carry the purchases to their car. The young boy gave his grandmother a bear hug and thanked her profusely for buying these treasures for him. I smiled at his open display of gratitude. Then he turned to me. “I have to hug you, too,” he said. He proceeded to propel himself into my arms and hugged me tightly.

smile2.image“Thank you,” I said again, this time rather huskily, my eyes misting up, my faith restored. And I meant it from the bottom of my heart. It ended up being a lovely day after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

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Are You Being Served?

So, I have mentioned before that I no longer am able to eat much these days aside from lettuce and cardboard. This often makes it a bit on the frustrating side when I am joining friends or family for a nice meal out. I mean, at home, it’s still not much fun, but at least I have some sort of control over what’s in the fridge or freezer and I am generally aware of what I’m eating – except for the nights that I’m so stressed or tired I forget to eat until bedtime and then I’m not responsible for what I shove down my throat.

wheat-macaroni-pasta-bread-muffin-whole-grainBasically, I do not eat meat and I can no longer tolerate delicious foods which include gluten or cream. Meaning I can no longer tolerate delicious foods. On a side note, you would think I’d weigh 90 pounds at this point for as little I can eat and how often I get sick if I accidentally ingest something that is delicious. But life is cruel and life often goes the opposite way that you think it should, so I have learned not to expect justice.

Following the above-placed dots, this brings us to your example of the week of the frustrations that can be faced by those of us on any kind of limited diet – I know many of you can relate on some level to the following situation.

I went out to dinner with the boy child for his birthday (and hopefully the girl child – they are twins –  and I and maybe even my hubby will get to celebrate soon next time we’re all in the same city at the same time).

We went to an Italian chain restaurant (not the Olive Garden, but one that has a name spaghetticontaining the word Grill) that I used to love, pre the no-gluten thing. I haven’t been there for awhile due to the delicious pasta-based foods calling my name, the delicious bread that is plunked on the table singing its Siren song, the cream-based sauces that demand to add 10 pounds to my thighs… But it was not my birthday, so that’s where we went.

I searched frantically for a salad that was larger than 3 tomatoes, 3 slices of mozzarella cheese and a basil leaf to eat, since everything else on the menu pretty much either had meat, cream, or gluten. No such luck. So I resigned myself to the Caprese Salad, and explained my situation to the waitress who couldn’t believe that was all I was going to eat, especially since I’m sure I look like I have a much heartier appetite. Anyway, she said they have gluten-free pasta there – specifically penne – and I could order off their menu where you can pick your own ingredients. That sounded like a great idea until she told me I could actually order anything off the menu and ask for gluten-free pasta as a substitute.  Well, now we were talking!

menuI really wanted something delicious. I felt like I deserved something delicious. So I ordered a shrimp dish that I used to order that had a lemon sauce and pine nuts and other yummy ingredients. Now, I don’t think I mentioned that when we got to the restaurant, we were told there would be a 10 – 15-minute wait. Not a terribly long wait, although I was surprised there would be any wait on a weeknight, but OK. We waited a half hour. Then it was about another half hour until we got our food, so I will admit that I was hungry. My boy child got to eat the entire loaf of delicious bread on his own, so he was doing OK. I was ready to eat the crayons that were on the table.

pizzaFinally, the server arrived. She handed my boy child his pizza. Then she smiled and said, “Here is your Chicken Piccata.” I looked at her in confusion. I explained I hadn’t ordered that chicken or any chicken. Our waitress was at the next table, and server worriedly hurried over to her where they conferred in hushed tones over this dilemma. The waitress approached and smiled.

“This is what you ordered,” she told me.

I shook my head. “Do you remember our conversation about me not eating meat?” I asked as nicely as I could at this point. “I guarantee you I did not order chicken. I ordered the shrimp and pasta.”

I think a little light dawned at this point. “OK, well, I’ll just move the chicken off this plate and you can keep the pasta and then I’ll have them heat up some shrimp for you.”

Now, the chicken was in with the pasta. I really didn’t want chickenish pasta. So I asked if they could just make me what I had ordered. She said it would take a few minutes and gave me a look like I had told her to dance around the restaurant with a jug of wine on her head.

Ten minutes later, she smilingly brought me the shrimp and pasta – the pasta which looked very suspiciously like the pasta on the first plate. I decided not to say anything other than asking if she was sure it was gluten-free pasta. She assured me it was.

I took a bite. It was not bad, but I was pretty sure the dish I ordered didn’t have chunks of mushroom and cherry tomatoes in it. And this pasta had no pine nuts either. But I thought I’d let it slide, since I was kind of ravenous at this point. Then I crunched on something. Something that tasted suspiciously like a meat-related food. Such as bacon. I called the waitress back over. You can only imagine her joy as she approached the table.

“I think there’s bacon in this pasta,” I said through gritted teeth, trying to approximate a smile.

“Oh no, it’s not bacon,” she assured me. “It’s pancetta.”

I looked at her in shock. When I was finally able to speak, I said, “Do you remember the part of the conversation where I told you I don’t eat meat? This is not what I ordered.”

images.padShe did not admit that she had made another mistake – a mistake partly due I’m sure to the fact that many restaurants these days insist that your servers are not allowed to write anything down and must instead memorize every last detail of your order. I will happily pay an extra dime for them to use a piece of paper and get my order right. Instead of her apologizing profusely and admitting that she had no idea what I had ordered, she said that she had shown me the list of allergens (she had) and asked if I was OK with what I ordered. I asked her to bring the menu, and proceeded to show her that the dish I had ordered didn’t have pancetta or tomatoes or mushrooms, and should have had pine nuts and other MIA ingredients.

She looked at me, sighed, and told me she’d go ahead and put in an order for the dish I was telling her I should have had. I told her never mind, I had completely lost my appetite.

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She did apologize, but advised me that next time I came there, I should order the choose-your-own meal so I could get exactly what I wanted. I sighed, we left, and I proceeded to get sick when I got home. Yes, sure, I’ll be back there soon.

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

Plays Well With Others?

Once upon a time, if you had a government job, you had a job for life. You had job security, decent benefits, and you were paid pretty well. It seems like a fantasy now in light of the past few years of brinksmanship, doesn’t it?

No matter what party you root for these days, you are most likely horrified and frustrated by the infantile behavior exhibited by our so-called representatives. Who can piss farther or longer?  And who can sling more mud, more blame, more ridiculous charges at their opponents? Most people have been likening this behavior to preschool behavior, and I agree – with one caveat: In preschool, teachers focus on cooperation and compromise, teaching their little charges that they need to get along with each other, building the foundation for future interactions in society. Where did those lessons go for our current Congress?

children.playing.coloring.pageWhat are some of the checkpoints on a preschooler or kindergartener’s socialization plan?

– plays well with others

– shares with others

– works well with others

– helps others

– participates well in group activities

– cooperates with others

These principles are sadly lacking in those who are supposed to representing the rest of us. Maybe we should get a group of  4- and 5-year-olds to demonstrate the way things should be done.  Such as caring about the good of the country, rather than their own self-interests. Not seeing the other political party as the enemy. Working together for the common good and realizing how much they are hurting innocent people in their haste to get re-elected. And staying away from eating paste.

I’ve been so distraught by this situation, I wrote an email to my Congressman yesterday. Here is the gist of it:

I believe that you believe that you are a good man. While I disagree with the ____ Party and many of the beliefs of the ___ Party, I believe you are trying to be an honorable person. And I hope you realize you represent all the people of your district, not just those who are in the ____ Party. So I am going to plead with you to get past the politics and the rhetoric the posturing that’s going on right now and think about the people who are being terribly affected by this shutdown. There is terrible harm being done to real people by the stance of you and pretty much everyone in Congress at the moment. No one is willing to compromise, you’re all just worried about being re-elected and not the fact that people will have no money to buy food, pay their bills, get care for their children if they’re not getting a paycheck. It’s terrifying, Congressman____, to face the prospect of no paycheck for even a day, let alone long-term. I’m not even mentioning all the other programs that are being shut down, affecting so many thousands. You and your fellow Congressmen need to put yourselves in the shoes of the government workers who work so hard for our country and are getting repaid for their loyalty and hard work by an absolute lack of compassion and caring by the people who are supposed to be representing them. Please put aside your egos and work together so we won’t have to face the prospect of losing homes, and all the ensuing catastrophic events that are sure to occur the longer this shutdown goes on. Thank you for your time.

As I sent off my email with hopes of getting some kind of response at some point, a message popped up on my screen. I’m paraphrasing, but it read something like this:

Due to the current government shutdown and furloughs, our staff is unavailable to respond to your message. Once the shutdown is over, we will respond to your concerns as soon as possible.

And there you go.

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved