Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

Hard To Compete With Shimmer and Shine

Thursday, March 30th, 2017


I’m the first to admit that I’ve been a purist when it comes to young grandkids and their electronic devices.

When the 3-year-old paid more attention to the Shimmer and Shine game on his iPad than the flaming onion volcano at a Japanese steakhouse, I worried.

When his 7-year-old sister started sending me nonstop emojis on her new iPod, I rolled my eyes.

But when I took the two of them overnight while their parents vacationed, I watched myself do a 180.

You’re sending their iPads, aren’t you?” I asked their mom.

“I’m afraid they’ll get broken,” she said.

Suddenly, I heard myself wheedling and begging and making grandiose promises.

“I want them just in case,” I said. “I’ll be careful.” I came just short of offering replacements and upgrades and full tuition at the college of their choice.

In exchange for the iPads – secretly tucked in the bottom of a tote bag under Mister 3’s blankets – I promised myself that only under the direst circumstances would I drag them out. I didn’t want them to get broken. Besides, I wanted to prove that these electronic devices, including the iPod already in Miss 7’s possession, would be no match for the old-fashioned fun I was about to devise.

After all, my own grandmother entertained my cousins and me for hours making artificial flowers and shell dolls and stupendous messes. But I had no idea till I tried it how exhausting it would be to compete with the razzle-dazzle of Shimmer and Shine.

“How about painting?” I suggested brightly and before anyone could say eeuw, I shoved them into oversized art shirts from a consignment store.

The two of them dived into the brushes – Miss 7 seriously creating an easel-size purple cat with enormous blue eyes, Mister 3 on the other side more interested in shredding the paper. He was just reaching for a bigger pair of scissors when his parents facetimed us from Vacation Paradise to see how things were going.

“Fantastic!” I declared.

“Nice scissors!” said my son.

Weapon quickly under wraps, I next proposed finger painting, and to my surprise neither shrank back. They dived right into the goosh, and produced between them eight masterpieces. One by fashionable Miss 7 looked like something out of a Lilly Pulitzer resort wear collection. Somehow, her brother’s hair took on a similar design, as did the back of his art shirt and a once boring section of the basement floor.

All this occupied them for at least 38 minutes until Mister 3 discovered my cache of Kinetic Sand, advertised as a “three-dimensional building toy” but actually a kind of brown sugar substance that never dries out. At Miss 7’s insistence, he began taking dinner orders out of it and designed a pretty fair lobster with drawn butter, which he served on his sister’s china tea set.

Thanks to 30 minutes of Sponge Bob (I’m not counting TV as electronics) and a bedtime story supposedly written by a hamster named Humphrey but read by me, we made it all the way to bedtime without iPads or iPod. The first bedtime, that is.

Mister 3’s second and third bedtimes that night needed a little help. Shimmer and Shine to the rescue.

Funny, but I had no trouble sleeping at all.

Copyright 2017 Pat Snyder





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Costa Rica: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Monday, March 6th, 2017

I hate to admit it, but I’m one of those people with a ready-fire answer to the question “What could possibly go wrong?”

Weather unseasonably warm? There’s a storm on the way.

Car won’t start? Must be the transmission.

Landline ringing? Probably a robot.

So I’m mildly astonished that when I picked Costa Rica for a must-have, big birthday vacation, I only thought “Toucans!” and “Rainforests!” and “Hot springs!”

It never occurred to me to think “Mosquitoes!” or “Zika virus!” or “Erupting volcanoes!”

That is, until I started talking with a more savvy fellow traveler who had read the fine print in the travel brochures.

“I had my vaccinations,” she said matter-of-factly, “and I’m keeping my eye on volcanoes.”

Vaccinations? Volcanoes? Wasn’t Costa Rica a Hakuna matata kind of place a little south of Florida? I was never very good at geography.

I dived into a travel book just in time to figure out that this was not like flying to Detroit for the weekend. So much wrongness to prevent! Starting with tropical disease.

First, there was the Hepatitis A shot and a round of typhoid capsules that had to be refrigerated and taken every other day for eight days one hour before some unspecified meal.

Without them, possible plague. But with them, according to chatroom chatter, possible GI misery on days 3 and 4 of the pills. Of course, said another, I might avoid this if I got the shot instead, as savvy fellow traveler had done. But then I’d already started the pills.

So on to figuring out which meal to take them one hour before. Breakfast? That might ruin the whole day. Lunch? Maybe too soon if the last was before dinner. Dinner? What if I forgot?

I distracted myself with the challenge of getting eight days of clothes into a weekender so I wouldn’t have to check a bag, which the airline would probably lose and never deliver in a rain forest. The only solution was laundry packets and quick-dry clothes, which I happened not to own except for one shirt and a pair of zip-off pants.

So off to the jungle traveler’s paradise, REI, which offered more than I could possibly fit in the suitcase but also acquainted me with the unhappy news that I should spray everything an odorless insect repellant called Permethrin. The bottle came with generous instructions in 9-point type for what to do if you accidentally ingested it, got it on your skin or in your eyes, or breathed it in and stopped breathing.

With the last typhoid pill down, I headed for the screen porch in 30-degree weather with facemask, goggles, and rubber gloves for a Permethrin moment or two. An hour or so later, still breathing despite a couple heart-stopping moments when I lost control of the sprayer, my work was done.

“At last!” I thought. “Time to enjoy the anticipation!” And off I ran to read about the tours, the hotels, the toucans. And noticed that the hotels had hair dryers but no coffee makers in the room. Egads!

Naturally, I had to find an immersion coil, an unbreakable insulated stainless steel cup and some VIA. And while I was at it, some of those old fashioned laundry hooks to hang over the shower bar for the quick-dry underwear.

They are not easy to find – most travelers apparently rely on suction cup clotheslines. But think about it. They could silently un-suction in the night.

Obviously worth one last errand. How much could you enjoy a toucan if your underwear’s still wet?

Copyright 2017 Pat Snyder










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“Greiging” of House Well-Timed

Monday, February 13th, 2017

As someone who writes a lot about stress relief, I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve missed a silent stress reliever that’s been coloring the interior lives of Americans everywhere.

It’s subtle, silent, nearly odorless, and goes by the name “Repose Gray.”

I didn’t discover it in Psychology Today, the New York Times, or a ponderous positive psychology research article. “Repose Gray” came to me courtesy of Ryan the painter.

“Everybody’s using it,” he said. “It’s so calming.”

Ryan and his crew arrived on the heels of the shocking realization that my “new house” had actually not been painted since it was built, nearly a dozen years ago.

Since then, much has changed. Presidents have come and gone. The last “child” has flown the coop. And completely behind my back, vanilla walls – once the passion of realtors everywhere – have become passé.

“Creams colors are dated,” Ryan informed me. “You’re going to love this. The last three houses I’ve done – all Repose Gray.”

Try as I might, I couldn’t remember seeing much gray. Taupe maybe. But gray?

I mentioned this supposed trend to a few friends, who quickly informed me that their walls are painted in Repose Gray. Also their daughter’s, their son’s, and several first cousins’ because “It’s so calming. Everyone’s using Repose Gray.”

National trending for the color gray (apart from 50 Shades) still seemed unlikely, so I took to the Internet. Sure enough. More than 1,000 Pinterest posts popped up to praise and analyze Repose Gray in excruciating detail. They described it as “greige”- a gray with beige/taupe undertones and a “wee bit” of purple with a Light Reflective Value (LRV) of 60. One commentator, as if describing a fashion model, reported that it “holds itself well, sitting in the light zone” but is “not TOO washy.”

Suddenly, I felt as with-it as someone who had not noticed that her appliances – Harvest Gold and Avocado Green – were a little dated.

Lured by overdue trendiness and the prospect of calm, I didn’t waste a minute.

“Let’s do it”! I declared to Ryan, who quickly ushered in a crew of four to participate in the graying of my house.

With ladders and drop cloths everywhere, furniture pushed into the center of the room and all the light switch plates and screws in a bucket for safekeeping, I must say that Repose Gray did not arrive with an instant calming effect.

But little by little – and especially after the painting frenzy ended – the greige began to grow on me. There is something calming these days about a color that just is, without making bold and colorful statements. A quiet background color that shows off occasional flights of fancy without being a flight of fancy. An appropriate backdrop for a quieted TV.

Or maybe I’m just hoping that the new calm of my home’s interior will somehow rub off on my own.

If that’s the case, maybe we should order the stuff by the tank car, allow it as a medical deduction, require it for FHA loans. Repose Gray could become more than maintenance. More than freshening up. More than fingerprint removal.

It could become a national movement.


Copyright 2017 Pat Snyder

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Total Immersion: The Ticket for 2017

Friday, January 6th, 2017

Happy January!

With a clean slate ahead, the strategist in me can barely contain herself.

What if I read a book a week? What if I did something every day that I’d never done before? What if I dumped a grocery bag a day of “stuff” I don’t really need?

Voila! I know the answer.

By the beginning of 2018, I’d be wiser and more insightful. Filled with scintillating conversation. And – miracle of miracles – clutter-free.

I’d also be stunned.

The last time I undertook one of these “small step” self-improvement plans was the 10-Year Journal I started writing back in 2006.

“If I just enter three lines a day for 10 years,” I announced at the time, “ then by 2016 I’ll have a complete record of the decade.”

I ran across the leather-bound volume the other day. Mostly blank.

Such was the fate of my plan to learn Spanish in just 15 minutes a day, try one new recipe a week, and learn Zen meditation by listening to a CD 30 minutes a day in my car.

‘Bad idea,” a friend had said to that last one. So I gave up on meditating while driving… and also on meditating at home.

So for 2017, I’ve decided to abandon the small step approach and go instead with my natural bent: compulsive total immersion.

It worked, after all, with a 2016 campaign to improve my TV literacy. After figuring out the “on demand” feature of the remote, I was able to immerse myself in two series and complete nearly an entire season of each in one week flat.

It worked – sort of – in winterizing the screened porch. In a single afternoon, I vacuumed and rolled up the rug, scrubbed down the table, dumped an entire jungle of dead potted plants, attacked mildewed chair cushions with bleach solution and an old tooth brush, and carted them all to the basement.

Except for needing a full body alignment the next day, no complaints. To say nothing of the fact that the immersion experience “felt right.” I come from a long line of compulsive immersers.

My mother during a week-long summer visit once “fell up” the basement stairs with a gallon of cedar weatherproofing: her weapon in an intense days-long effort to rejuvenate my picnic table.

“Needs one more coat,” she panted, limping – but still painting – after her downhill slide.

She apparently learned this from her mother, who was so bent on same-day sewing projects that she left “Old Lizzie,” her 1945 Ford Sedan, still running in case she ran out of thread.

Although compulsive total immersion can lead to complete total exhaustion, it does have its strong points.

But for total immersion, I would never have figured out (mild spoiler alert) why “This Is Us” pivots randomly between a hospital nursery and several 36th birthday celebrations. I would still be reeling from the fast-paced Designated Survivor pilot, and a dozen pots of parched and frozen herbs would be languishing on my screen porch.

Beyond that, there is a certain joie de vivre in total immersion. An energy that’s bound to come from a headlong dive into the New Year.

And if I totally immerse myself into some energizing project each and every day, then by the end of 365… Voila! Another stunning year!

Copyright 2017 Pat Snyder






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