Archive for the ‘Columns’ Category

Fidget Spinner Outs Me

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

I like to think I have each of my grown children figured out and properly categorized: The wise, contemplative oldest. The never-knew-a-stranger sales guy in the middle. The sensitive, empathic youngest.

I thought this game was a comfortable one-way street till Mr. Wise One sent a care package to entertain me after bunion surgery.

“I think you’ll like this stuff,” he said. “It’s the real you.”

I could hardly wait to find out what that was.

A smashing collection of classical jazz? A volume of Chekhov prose? A Black Belt Sudoku book?

When the box arrived, it contained three things: a novel about a widow with grown children who got bored and joined the CIA, a 550-piece travel puzzle and a little white box with a three-sided thing-a-ma-jig in it.

My granddaughter, 7 (sales guy’s daughter), gasped when she saw it. “A fidget spinner!” she cried, and grabbed it out of my hand. Seems she and all her friends have these, buy them by the fistfuls, stash them in their backpacks.

In seconds, she had it spinning between her thumb and second finger. “Watch this!” she said. And suddenly it was spinning perfectly on the tip of her thumb.

“This is a really good one,” she said. “It will help you when you’re fidgety.”

The more I read about fidget spinners, the more sobering all this became.

It’s not just that Wise One believes a toy invented to calm down children with ADHD is the perfect thing for me. It’s also the fact that I’d somehow missed a craze that has spun through the national media like a tornado for at least two months.

The calming part makes sense. The first time I spun it, I couldn’t take my eyes off the thing.

“This could be the perfect meditation tool,” I told him. And I meant it.

How could I leave the present moment when I was totally absorbed in watching a whirligig?

“Is that why you sent it?” I asked him. “So I could focus?”

“Use it as you will,” he said. Did I mention he is also superbly polite?

But the more I ponder this, I’m thinking that the real me it has outed, is someone who despite ardent post-election efforts, is still living in a bubble. I’m in my own little world, uninhabited by fidget spinners or news reports, fake and otherwise, that have warned of the dangers of these whirligigs gone airborne.

Some schools have banned them. Classroom teachers have seized them. ADHD experts have wrangled about their usefulness. All off my radar screen. All on my seven-year-old granddaughter’s.

After awhile, I was bothered less by the idea of being fidgety than the fact I had missed all of this. Was it a generational thing? Was I aging at an alarming rate?

My only comfort is that when I mentioned the fidget spinner, my Sensitive and Empathic Youngest had no idea what I was talking about.

“So he gave you a “Sit ‘n Spin?” she asked. “How is that good for your foot?”

She went on to ask if I had heard the news that Ohio farmers were producing camel milk – a topic she said everyone was talking about. In Oregon, where she lives.

At least living in a bubble is not about age. It’s apparently genetic.

Copyright 2017 Pat Snyder




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Bunion Surgery Squelches Errand-Running High

Friday, May 26th, 2017

Everybody’s good at something.

My personal best is jamming a dozen errands into an eight-hour day.

When I pass a Jiffy Lube, I wonder if I might be able to work an oil change in before the dentist, where I’m due in 15 minutes.

I can cram a trip downtown with intoxicating possibilities for detour– to the hardware store for epoxy, the PO for a Priority Mail box, the pharmacy for the perfect birthday card for my cousin in Kansas.

If time and space are kin, my day would look like one of those craft cupboards pictured on Pinterest – 1,400 tubes of acrylic paint, 1,200 paint brushes, and several reams of multi-colored construction paper jammed onto sagging shelves.

So compelling is the thrill of the chase that when my doctor, scheduling me for bunion surgery next month said five weeks no driving, I was stunned. I’d expected the pain. But five weeks with no errands?

Sure. Several kind friends stepped up. “We can run to the store for you,” they said.

But I suspect they were not thinking of doing this at my usual pace – five minutes from the bright idea till I pull into the Kroger parking lot.

So I decided to stock up ahead of time – only to discover that 36 rolls of extra-wide, Ultra-Soft Charmin won’t fit in my hallway closet.

“Try Amazon Prime Now!” someone suggested. (The Now is part of the name, not necessarily when I was supposed to try it.) I checked it out.

It was sobering to learn that if I’m willing to hold my horses for two hours, at no charge, I could have chilled wine delivered to my front stoop, along with the glasses to drink it from. Also, a 49-inch TV, 214 dairy, cheese and egg products, 84 kinds of chocolate, 72 kinds of produce…and I’m just getting started.

I should be elated, but instead I feel like a factory worker sidelined by technology. My errand-running skills have been replaced by warehouse workers near my zip code rushing around like frantic worker bees, carting products from place to place, getting them ready to rush out the door for this two-hour window.

In my fantasies, I’ve thought it might be fun to join them at the warehouse after my five-week sabbatical. Imagine the thrill of organizing so much stuff, the adrenaline rush of the two-hour window, the satisfaction of the perfectly packed box!

But from what I read, it’s grueling work with none of the errand-running highs I’ve grown to love.

Instead, maybe I’ll try savoring the time saved. With everything just dropped on the front porch, maybe I’ll finally learn to meditate, read more poetry or – egads! – binge-watch some of those shows my friends keep recommending.

At the moment, I’m making a to-do list of possibilities that don’t require driving: unwritten letters, unread books, unwatched movies, an unwritten genealogy on my father’s side, unmade edits suggested by my poetry group, an unwritten transition memo for a bar association….

The adrenaline is kicking in. It’s starting to get exciting. I’m not sure five weeks is long enough.

Copyright 2017 Pat Snyder


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Spring Springs Fix-Up Rampage

Friday, April 28th, 2017


It doesn’t take much. When I was 12, a new decal from the five and dime set me off. I charged into a cleaning, fix-it spree that turned my bedroom upside down and inside out with closet-cleaning and painting.

And now, with spring upon us, I feel the same dangerous itch.

This time, a beeping smoke detector launched the madness. “I can’t keep changing these every few months!” I growled. And set out on a crusade to tame the battery-eating monsters.

Thanks to Google, the answer came easy. Seems the little buggers start wearing out after 10 years or so. Replace them with new-fangled ones that have 10-year sealed lithium batteries, and you’ve bought yourself a decade of peace. Also, a wise reprieve from climbing stepladders.

Cheered on by such a speedy victory, I immediately turned to the kitchen clock: 12-feet up and anchored to the wall by a nail that invariably falls out and disables the garbage disposal every time daylight savings time comes and goes.

“Enough!” I declared. A sink stopper might have been a better choice, but instead I sprung for an atomic, radio-controlled wall clock with a long-life battery. It automatically adjusts to time changes through some mysterious connection to a time signal radio station near Fort Collins, Colorado. Or so they say.

Undeterred by the clock, I forged ahead. I found some clever little pop-up canisters that seemed just the right size to house the growing collection of K Cups littering the floors of two closets.


The canisters led to pulling every scrap from the closets in a fervent search for K Cups, which I could then categorize and canister-ize and label according to regular, decaf, flavored, tea, hot chocolate and cider.

When one thing’s pristine, everything else looks shabby. Suddenly, a black ink stain the size of my hand on in the center of the upstairs carpet began to worry me. So did walking around the trashcan I’d been using to cover it up.

This led to a frantic search on Pinterest to see if some clever crafter had figured out a way to cut out stains and replace them with carpet scraps. But the more I looked at the carpet, the more stains I saw, so off to cost-comparisons on actually replacing it, as well as an analysis of VOC levels, Angie’s List reports, and inquiries on who would be willing to let the carpet “out-gas” in the warehouse for a couple of days before installation.

Of course, no carpet goes in without clearing the floor, which meant finally shipping six boxes of left-behind books to my daughter in Portland – but only after a one-hour Facetime conversation in which she looked at every cover to be sure she needed them. She rejected four (books, not boxes).

Looking floor-ward, I could not help but notice that a small area of the kitchen hardwood was beginning to look tired from overuse, which prompted a parade of floor experts eager to remove every stick of furniture and send me on a week-long vacation away from the fumes.

Not a bad idea considering the likely expense of staying home and noticing what else could be spruced up this spring.

I think a road trip is my new best friend.

Copyright 2017 Pat Snyder

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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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