Sell By Date

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Whenever I look in the refrigerator and see something that I’m pretty sure belongs in the garbage can, I know it’s time to call the expert on all things date-challenged… my Dad.

Somehow, he has this uncanny talent for distinguishing between freshness and over-ripeness. Sure, I can see mold on a strawberry or on a loaf of bread. And I don’t even need to smell the milk once I see it curdled on top. But it’s the ambiguous items I have trouble with.

I tend to rely on terms such as:

  • Expiration Date
  • Sell By Date
  • Best If Used By Date

But, as my ‘advisor’ has advised me on many occasions, canned foods and boxed foods have different freshness standards. Stale cereal, for instance, won’t harm you but it might not be the crunchy consistency you desire. And I remember all the people stocking up on canned beans and tuna during the days preceding the millennium. Would those foods still be edible today?

I will always have my suspicions and will continue to throw out perfectly good food (like millions of others) because, “why take the chance?” That said, on any given day, you can still find me pulling out all the milks in the store till I get to the latest date at the back and I wouldn’t hesitate to bring back any moldy food (even if I’ve already eaten some of it) for a full refund!

Finding Your Match

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Stripes or solids? Plaids or polka-dots? Finding the right match can be difficult. Some things and some people are just meant to be together. Others, not so much.

Whether you like peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and honey, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone willing to challenge your taste in food preparedness. That said I, personally, can’t see why anybody would put ketchup on their hot dog instead of mustard but, then, I also don’t find the need for ketchup on my fries… so there’s that.

Black coffee or coffee with lots of milk and sugar? This, too, is a seemingly debateable issue between caffeine drinkers. I prefer tea so it matters not to me but stop in at any Starbucks, any time of the day, and you’ll see not only long wait lines but lines of predilection as well.

Finding your match can involve anything from your taste buds to your heart’s desire. Preferences in food, music, art and clothing can change as often as the days of the week. Traits we like about our friends and even about ourselves sometimes change as we get older. Love, on the other hand, is a many splendored thing and should always shine as radiantly as a struck match!

Rainy Day Saving

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When I finally convinced my parents that it was time to move out of their 3-leveled townhouse (after both of them had fallen) and into a condo without stairs, the fun had only just begun.

It never occurred to me that this almost 60-years-married couple could not (and would not) part with a single item… many of which had not seen the light of day in more than half a century.

We all love our memorabilia and no one would ever suggest throwing out an original photo or a special letter. But 70+ year old school report cards, brittle clumps of no longer fine, baby hair and (there are no words) what appear to be baby teeth in little plastic treasure chests are NOT items that need to be saved and moved to yet another home.

Sometimes, ‘out with the old and in with the new’ has tremendous merit – especially when not doing so turns a home into a hoarding house!

Not Quite Seasonal

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Many days throughout the year are marked by some celebration or another. The major holidays are booming and even lesser ones are becoming Hallmark gold.

But what about those days – you know the ones – where nothing special happens and we’re lucky if we even remember them? Maybe the weather was bad or a game we wanted to watch wasn’t being televised and there was nothing else on TV but repeats… Don’t they matter, too?

Even on those unremarkable days, children are born, people die and life altering events happen halfway around the world. But we aren’t aware of any of it. We just go about our business until the next ‘big’ thing comes along.

So, next time you wake up and have breakfast and wonder what you’re going to do that day… just look at all the gorgeous colors outside your window. It costs you nothing, it (hopefully) puts a smile on your face and maybe even brightens up an otherwise ordinary (NOW seasonable) day.*

*Between one upcoming holiday and the next, casually pick a day (a Monday, for instance) and make it memorable. Go out and take some pictures; look up someone you’ve lost contact with; volunteer at a shelter (be it for humans or for our four-legged friends). Believe me… it’ll matter!

Enough Is Enough

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I remember when my Dad used to drum.  Long after he retired from teaching and playing club dates on the weekends – weddings and Bar Mitzvahs – he continued drumming, almost as if his fingers had a life of their own. I never did that. My oldest son, also a drummer, occasionally does that. Maybe it’s a guy thing.

For years my Dad’s fingers would drum and drum and drum. Every surface had permanent dents or dings; every tabletop was worn of its natural patina of wood; every arm chair’s upholstery was permanently thinned – some worn right down to the material below.

But I haven’t heard that familiar sound in ages. At some point, Dad just gave up. When he finally decided, “enough is enough,” I’ll never know for sure. Was it when the phone stopped ringing for gigs or when the students stopped needing lessons or when time just passed by and all those years of experience and knowledge stopped mattering?

I know he sometimes has dreams about those days of working and teaching. He says they’re quite vivid and he remembers them all. The mind is a funny thing – focusing on some events, no matter how trivial, while fogging over others that seemed so important at one time. So maybe, in hindsight, enough is never really enough! 

What’s The Difference?

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What’s the difference between helping and enabling? That’s a tricky question. It’s one that I’ve been battling with myself over for some time now.

The dictionary defines ‘help’ as doing something to make it easier for someone… to aid or assist someone. ‘Enable’ is defined as making something possible or easy. But isn’t that essentially the same thing? At least in literal terms, it sounds like a positive action. So how come I constantly feel like I’m doing my parents an injustice?

Here are some examples:

1) The Mail – getting it saves my parents time and a trip down the elevator. Saving my parents a trip down the elevator keeps them from leaving their home and from having something to do to break up the day.

2) The Store – going to the pharmacy or picking up dinner saves my parents from having to do these chores themselves. Doing these chores for my parents keeps them from leaving their home, having something to do and from socializing with other people.

3) The TV – turning on the tv, taping programs and checking the guide saves my parents from ever having to learn how to operate the remote. Operating the remote myself, instead of insisting they learn how to do it themselves, keeps them reliant on me, doesn’t challenge their brains, keeps them (basically) in the Stone Age and out of touch with technology and the resources of the 21st century.

What’s the difference between HelPing and eNABling? BN HAP (being happy)!

Next Available Representative

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On days like today, when I no sooner fix one problem that another one crops up, I wish I was automated so I could just say: “For Spanish, press 1” or “To speak to the next available representative, press 2.” Then I could have a nice cup of tea out on the terrace and chill.

I can’t seem to make my parents understand that I am neither a handyman nor a magician. I can’t just make things work all of a sudden and I only wish that I could make some things disappear. All of a sudden I find myself solely responsible for two of the most important people in my life and I am constantly doubting my ability to handle it all.

So, before you take on any new challenges in your life (no matter how large or how small), take a deep breath, write a list of pros and cons (if that’s your style) or talk it over with the person who knows you best. And if the phone ever starts playing that mind-numbing, ‘you’re-on-hold’ music… run like hell!