Last week CBS This Morning hosted a lexicographer from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, talking about the malleability of language and the ongoing task of incorporating new words into the dictionary. Although prescriptive grammarians (unlike descriptive ones) would have you believe that our language and its rules are static, nothing could be further from the truth. (Sure, I know when I’m supposed to say “whom”—and I sometimes even do it—but these days those rules are largely at odds with actual usage.)
Speaking to new words that have been recently incorporated, the Merriam-Webster editor gave examples like “photobomb” and “binge-watch.” By this point, “selfie” has been in the dictionary so long it’s old news. I’m fascinated by the cultural commentary afforded by new words… The one I’m interested in today has only been in the dictionary for a couple years, and won Oxford’s “word of the year” honor in 2014:
The Merriam-Webster definition adds to the verb definition of vape: “like someone smoking a conventional cigarette.” That definition might already be outdated. Most of today’s vapes have so little in common with cigarettes that they’re not even getting called e-cigs anymore. Early models did look like cigarettes, but these days they range from boxy models to flashy pens—virtually no resemblance to the nasty originals.
Yup, I just called cigarettes nasty. I actually thought so even for the eight-or-so years that I was obsessively smoking them. And there you have the strange face of addiction. Cigarettes are nasty—but I liked them. They were my friends, They were a treat, every time I lit up, even though I hated the lingering ashtray-odor that clung to me afterward. Continue reading “On Vapors, and Vapers”→
There’s a new key on my ring that I can’t use just yet, but I’m carrying it anyway because I’m excited about this unexpected gift from my husband. I’m still sort of in a state of disbelief about it, to be honest. I can’t quite believe I really have this key, let alone what it goes to… But I’ll leave you in suspense for a moment and come back to that.
Here’s what I find kind of funny today. Jon and I have been reading The Five Love Languages, and we have determined that “receiving gifts” is not my love-language. As a writer, maybe it’s not surprising that “words of affirmation” are what speak most eloquently to my heart—and those are closely followed by the language of “physical touch.”
I feel absolutely adored when Jon leaves me a sweet card with a hand-written love note. Or when he calls me by a pet name, tells me I look cute or sexy, says he loves me. I even thrill when he calls me “Mrs. Smith,” because it’s an emphasis on the married-in-love “Mrs.”… We spend a few hours of every day on the phone, he with his Bluetooth in his ear while his head is under hoods of cars—we talk to each other while we go about our days, and I never tire of the sound of his voice. Words do it for me, no question! I’m also a hand-holder, a snuggler, a butt-grabber, and a happy recipient of reciprocal touches. When he puts his arm around me in church and holds my hand in the grocery store, I feel Capital-L-Loved.
Now don’t get me wrong, regarding gifts. It’s not that I don’t enjoy or appreciate them, they’re just not the currency that “proves love” in my emotional world. When he does give me something, I find myself floored by it, maybe because it seems like such an “extra.” Continue reading “Love Languages & Chocolate Sprinkles”→
Yesterday morning I walked through a rainstorm to the gym we just joined—a Planet Fitness decorated in garish purple-and-mustard, and plastered with heartening signs proclaiming it a “No-Judgement Zone.” I owned a StairMaster in my twenties, but my forties-self clearly needs some shaping-up because that thing was kicking my butt after six minutes. So I thought I’d try out a treadmill.
My discovery about the treadmill: it gives you an odd form of “sea legs”… When I got off it half an hour later, I felt like I was weirdly gliding across the gym. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I don’t glide. I’m not that graceful. But I felt glidey till I was halfway home.
I’m on a mission. I already said it: I need some shaping up. I’ve been big-time frowning at the bathroom scale lately, because the dang thing insists I’m heavier than I’ve ever been, pregnancies included. Continue reading “Sea Legs & Side Effects”→
So… I’m going to be back in orange again. And this time it’s not going to be picking up trash along the freeway as penance—I just landed a job as a Home Depot cashier. There’s a tiny part of me that wonders if I shouldn’t sigh and shake my head at myself, past forty with a Master’s degree and excited about cashiering… But I’m pretty sure that’s the part of me I don’t like very much. The rest of me is tickled. I get to be part of the “culture of the Orange Apron.” I get to spend my day with people.
One thing that has been a constant across all my jobs is the fact that I get “charged” by interacting with people. It’s like the human version of putting a cell phone on a charger—I charge my batteries with friendly interactions. It’s the part I loved about the restaurant I had with my late husband—it was literally a “mom and pop” shop, with him cooking and me serving, and people streaming through and smiling with me all day long. I felt like I got a percentage of every smile that happened at my place during the day, and I could come home absolutely exhausted, but still grinning.
It’s what I like about my job at the RV park, and it’s what I’ve been missing on the other days of the week when I’ve been home alone with the laptop, working on freelance articles for a client in India. Somehow the WhatsApp conversations with India don’t have the same charge-me-up potential as in-person interactions.
When we were running the restaurant, we had a favorite joke. Whenever someone had a special request or an off-menu idea, Keoni would say, “I’ll have to check with Corporate“… and then he’d turn to me and ask, “What do you say, Babe?” That was the best thing about “being Corporate” at Kana Girl’s Hawaiian BBQ—the fact that I could always make the judgment call to please the customer. So imagine how pleased I was to find out this week that Home Depot associates are actually given a budget to use at their discretion to accommodate customers who might otherwise be having a negative experience. I certainly used that same sort of “power” to good effect in our restaurant, knowing that an occasional meal on the house (when an order took too long, say) would be more than made up for when that customer kept returning. I don’t think many big companies think that way, but at Home Depot even a cashier is empowered to make that kind of call. Continue reading “An Empowered Shade of Orange”→
Regardless of what the retail-store displays would have us believe, Easter really isn’t about chocolate, baskets, or long-eared hopping mammals. Nevertheless, our church chooses to host an “Easter Eggstravaganza” for the neighborhood, staged in the park right behind the church.
It’s part of our mission to reach out to the neighborhood, and be a presence. It’s not intended as a recruiting tool per se (although plenty of new folks also showed up for the church service beforehand)—our focus is on being a part of the neighborhood around us, doing some good where we can, and letting people experience Christianity-in-action.
It’s the same reason we partner with the grade school a couple blocks away, which has one of the highest “free-lunch” populations in the city, and a heavy demographic of refugees. We bring teams of volunteers to help at their events, provide backpacks full of school supplies at the beginning of the year, and adopt needy families with clothing and gifts at Christmas. There’s never any “propaganda” accompanying our volunteer work or giving at the school; it’s purely a program of Christian living, embracing the neighborhood where we’re planted.
Last year we “egged” several hundred nearby homes, leaving plastic Easter eggs on their doorsteps with invitations to the Easter event. The three thousand eggs we stuffed with candy for last year’s egg-hunt proved insufficient, so this year we gathered our forces to stuff candy into ten thousand eggs. We had a bounce-house and face painting and a photo booth and a raffle, and the Easter Bunny arrived on a Harley Davidson (we’re that kind of church) to meet-and-greet and take pictures with kids. Continue reading “Jesus Meets a Harley-Riding Rabbit”→
There’s a TV ad for an antidepressant that features a paper plate on a popsicle-stick handle with a smiley face sketched on it… Various people are holding it up in front of their faces, which (behind the paper-plate-smiles) are unhappy, disengaged, or entirely expressionless.
That ad speaks not only to the experience of Depression, but also to an odd aspect of our culture. It’s somehow unacceptable to show anything other than the smiley-face, isn’t it?
In that ad, the people only tuck the paper-plate facade into pockets or purses after they have their own smiles back in place.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I also notice that all of these people keep their paper-plate smiles close at hand. One tucks the stick-handle into her pocket, another into the strings of his apron while he barbecues, others tuck them into outer pockets of handbag and briefcase. One of them fingers the plate as she walks away, not unlike a smoker patting a pocket to assure herself of the presence of her cigarette pack.
In addition to its inferred promise that it will put my own smile back, this ad tells me that no matter what’s going on, I’d better face forward with a smile of some kind.
Our false smiles (whether or not they’re sketched on paper plates) are like security blankets—we don’t dare show ourselves without them. Why is that? Why are we so conditioned not to let stress or worry show, not to answer the question “How are you?” with anything but a variation of “Fine“?
Because I’m a sailboat skipper, I’m amused by RV terminology that borrows from the marine arena. Like the “shore cord”—the cord we plug in at an RV park to power the rig’s electrical system. On a sailboat a shore cord (which you’d plug in at the dock when you stay in a marina) makes sense—it goes from the boat to shore.
So today’s list is about ways that RV-living reminds me of sailboat-living. (Just add water.) And some ways that RV-or-sailboat-living is different from living in a house…
The toilet flushes with a foot pedal. [What does it say about me that this is the first thing that comes to mind?] This is reminiscent of every sailboat I’ve ever chartered. And to add to the illusion: the skylight over the shower is just like a sailboat hatch.
We have to pay attention our blackwater tank. We leave our gray tanks (sinks & shower) open all the time, but we empty and rinse the black (toilet) tank about once a week, keeping it closed and dosed with a chemical treatment between-times. Most people pay extra money for “RV toilet paper” that’s supposed to break down more easily in the blackwater tank. We opt to use the trash can instead—that way we never worry about our tank getting clogged. I don’t even think about it any more, until I find myself reaching for a trash can when I’m on a “land-based” toilet. (TMI?)
Spaces have multiple uses. Our bed lifts up to reveal storage beneath. Our garage has seats and a bed that can be lowered from the ceiling when we need more “living” space. The stove and kitchen sink convert to countertops. We set up our Total Gym in the garage when the seats retract to the ceiling. The bench at the foot of the bed holds our linens. The bunk above our kitchen doubles as storage space since we don’t host overnight guests. Even the back wall of the garage can be lowered down to create a porch, complete with railings. (It also doubles as the ramp up which we drive the motorcycle when it’s getting parked indoors for a move.)
Things have multiple uses. We don’t own a dozen pots and pans; we own one “red copper” frying pan and one deep square red copper pan (which can go in the oven, be a stovetop pot, or serve with a frying basket). The stand for our bedroom space heater is really a stack of boxes that hold photos and sewing stuff. The sewing machine in its case is the “shelf” where I perch my purse. Our TV trays serve in roles ranging from dinner-table to computer-desk. Almost everything does more than one thing.
We have power back-ups. When the “shore cord” is unplugged, our fridge and water heater switch to propane power and our lights run on solar. If need be, we can run the onboard generator. (“Onboard.” There’s another marine-echo…)
“Outside” is part of the living space. It’s not a sailboat deck, but we eat dinner and hang out on our patio for most of the year. We didn’t host dinner parties during the winter, but we do have some merry patio-parties under the “fairy lights” built into our awning.
We hear the weather. Rain on the roof is a lovely sound, though we couldn’t even converse through a hailstorm last fall! Combined with the outside living, I feel closer to the weather and the world than I ever did in a house.
We don’t buy many things in bulk. Just toilet paper and coffee. For the most part, we buy other things as we need them. We don’t keep a cupboard full of canned goods or “stock” supplies—we buy them as recipes call for them, or as we’re actually going to use them. (The glaring exception here would be the pickles, which we canned ourselves last summer and have in abundance!)
We can’t move the furniture. Everything is built in, from the bed to the couch to the huge surround-sound TV in the garage that we’ve never turned on. This is one reason to choose a rig with a configuration you actually like. (And yes, we have a few notes about layout that we’ll keep in mind when we decide to trade this one in… Especially the kitchen.)
Space gets cluttered easily, but clean-up is quick! There’s just not that much house to clean. By the same token, it usually doesn’t take long to find something I’ve misplaced. There just aren’t that many places to look.
We’ve learned to live without an “entryway” for dirty shoes and without a coat closet for the helmets and motorcycle jackets. I just vacuum more often, and the otherwise-unused end of the couch collects coats.
When someone knocks at the door, they’re looking at our knees when we open it. The steps up are so steep, the front door is most-of-a-person taller than the person standing outside. I usually come down the steps to talk because standing elevated in the doorway feels awkward.
We never have to pack. Well, OK, “never” is an exaggeration. We still have to pack when we go camping (to the mountains where we wouldn’t drag the monster RV), or on a motorcycle trip, or to visit my mom. But we’ve moved four times without packing a single box. And if we wanted to, we could take the whole house on a trip with us—we can go almost anywhere without “leaving home.”
RVers are unabashedly interested in each other’s homes, in ways that brick-house-neighbors would never admit to. Even models with the same name come in different configurations, and we all seem to get a charge out of seeing how individual rigs are laid out. Home repairs (like last weekend’s replacement of our roof-fan to the bathroom) are carried out publicly and discussed in detail (our near neighbor, who also has a Grand Design Momentum, called for Jon’s help for the same repair, just days later). We commiserate about design flaws, brainstorm solutions, swap stories of difficulties, share winterizing materials, and unashamedly ask to see inside each other’s homes. It would never cross my mind to ask a casual acquaintance to show me their bathroom or closets in a brick-and-mortar house, but it doesn’t even phase me to be asked the same here. All in all, it’s the same sense of shared adventure and camaraderie (maybe minus the bathroom-tours) that you’d find among sailors moored at a marina.
We don’t do laundry at home. I thought this would be a major pain in the neck, but truthfully it’s not that much more work to walk a basketful of dirties over to the park’s laundry than it would be to walk it to a laundry-room in a house. Initially I thought I’d be begging for a washer/dryer in our rig, but now I wouldn’t trade the closet space for that minor convenience. An amusing side-note: thanks to the coin-op laundry, quarters are a hot commodity around here—definitely higher-than-face-value. Part of my pay, working for the RV park, comes in the form of rolled quarters every month!
Getting professional home-repair done is a pain, because it can involve dropping off your home somewhere, and being homeless while it gets worked on. Our rig has a number of issues that are covered by the warranty, but we’re waiting for our vacation-week this summer to take it in to the dealer while we’re out of town. There is a mobile RV-Repair guy who makes frequent visits to the park—but Jon can do pretty much everything Jake does. (Side-note: it’s an unbelievable blessing to be married to a Useful Person when you’re living in an RV! Jon’s “automotive technician” skills spill over to a lot of handy-work for which other people are calling Jake.) For the major stuff (e.g. rear A/C unit that hasn’t worked since we bought it) it’s a shame to let that warranty go to waste, but I’m betting a lot of people pay Jake rather than hand over their homes for “drydock” repair.
“Home decor” mostly means decals (which won’t fall off the wall) and velcro under knick-knacks (so they won’t fall off the ledge). It also means we don’t have a lot of knick-knacks, because horizontal space is scarce. My Willow-Tree angels and his dad’s service flag are all velcroed in place so we don’t have to fuss when we move.
Internet connection is precious. Theoretically the park has free wi-fi, but it doesn’t really reach most of us most of the time. Since we can’t hardwire a cable, I finally invested in a wifi hotspot so I could get my freelance writing done (and yes, blogging too) but I spend my online-time watching the “meter” running in the corner of my screen, trying to get my gigs to last as long as possible.
We’ve gotten creative to keep things organized and accessible. Lacking bedside tables, we used to keep a basket by each side of the bed with the various things we’d use there—books, medications, phones, water bottles, kleenex… And we’d always be rummaging to find what we wanted, till I made us each an organizer to hang by the bed, with pockets for those items. I’m thinking I should market these things! (And send a cut to my mom, who used to make similar organizers for our crayons and coloring books in the back of the car…)
Christmas-shopping just got challenging. My mother expressed as much when she asked, “What do you get for the person who’s already gotten rid of almost everything I ever gave her?” For the record, I’ve kept lots of things she gave me—but she does make a point. When space is scarce and belongings minimized, gift-giving takes on a whole new aspect… So one of these days (before next Christmas!) I’ll do a list of ideas.
This list could go on, but if you’ve made it this far you’re already a tenacious reader…
When I was a kid, I used to pretend my bedroom was a sailboat. That particular game-of-Pretend requires rather less in the way of imagination these days! (A girl’s gotta have dreams… Just sayin’.)