Voicemails, the best way to annoy friends and family

If you listen to your voicemails, you may be in the minority. I read a piece claiming that more and more people are ignoring their voicemails. They find the practice freeing.

I listen to voicemails from our auto mechanic, the plumber and any and all health care providers. I find the practice expensive.

The Digital Age has given us so many ways of connecting that we now have a hierarchy of how all this connectedness annoys us. Voicemails have risen to the top; so, many are ignoring them.

But wait. There’s more. There’s always more, and that’s the problem.

Our son recently mentioned that he no longer reads emails. Including mine.

I try not to take this personally. Truthfully, I feel more loved knowing that he doesn’t just ignore my emails—he ignores all emails. He’s always been a very equitable person. Although, as a mother, you never mind a little favoritism from an adult child.

He said that the only way he knows I sent him an email is if I copy in our daughter-in-law and then she tells him that his mother sent something important. Just one more reason why I love that girl.

Selectively skipping some voicemails, depending on who they are from, might be OK but ignoring all your emails can be dangerous. Especially if they are from your mother.

That said, I have to admit that it seems there are days I spend more time unsubscribing and deleting junk emails than I do answering legit emails. My inbox overfloweth.

Our son, like both sons-in-law and countless others working from home, is constantly on the phone problem solving, consulting with associates in time zones around the world and joining conference calls that span hours.

He may ignore the bulk of his voicemails and emails, and even be burned out by phone calls, but thankfully, he still texts. He recently sent a text asking me a question that necessitated a specific answer. I texted back my answer and his “notifications silenced” feature popped up.

Just like that we were back in the teen years—I was talking and he wasn’t listening.

In our overly connected world, it is a challenge to ever disconnect. Naturally, a winnowing must take place to preserve both privacy and sanity.

My better half is so vigilant about protecting privacy that he rarely gives out his cell phone number. A while back we switched banks. Filling out forms to open a new account, he came to the blank for his phone number and froze.

“You trust them with our money, but not with your cell phone?” I asked.

“That’s right,” he said. “You can never be too careful.”

I said it was OK to use my cell phone number. Everyone we do business with has my cell number.

His barber just left a message that I have a haircut at 2.

My husband’s cell number is Fort Knox secure. Well, at least it was until a few days ago when a couple of grands were here and made note of his cell phone number. He had 15 calls to his cell from our ancient touchtone landline in less than 15 minutes.

Like the man says, you can never be too careful.

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Getting heated over “feels like” temperatures

The flash point of the Thermostat Wars happened recently when you know who cranked the thermostat, fired up a space heater in the kitchen and began fanning the door to the oven where broccoli was roasting at 400 degrees.

Overcome by intense heat, I changed into capris, a tank top and flip flops.

He countered by putting on a fleece pullover and baseball cap.

Trying to cheer my perpetually chilled husband, I remarked that the outdoor temperature had risen to 38, but “feels like” 42.

“Who says it feels like 42?” he asked.

“My weather app.”

“How does a weather app know what it feels like outside?”

I suggested that the “feels like” temperatures are calculated by trained meteorologists using formulas involving temperature, humidity and wind.

He countered that the “feels like” temperatures are bogus because everybody feels temperature differently.

I froze.

Then I melted because the “feels like “temperature in the kitchen was approaching 80.

The man had a point. What a temperature “feels like” to him isn’t what it “feels like” to me. Women over 55, and aging men who like flannel-lined jeans, often have marked differences when it comes to what the temperature “feels like.”

The one exception to such perceived differences is in the far north states routinely blanketed with snow and cold. I know this because I lived in North Dakota one winter. Droplets of moisture on nose hairs instantly froze and made icicles when you step outside in 20-below temps. If your mouth and nose are uncovered, you can feel the burn in your lungs.

Everyone in the state agreed there was only one “feels like” temperature—that of the Arctic Circle.

How cold was it?

I was a newspaper photographer in Fargo and every picture I shot was a polar-oid. The kids all ate Ice Krispies and Frosted Flakes. I hope you believe this, so I don’t have to tell the one about all the farmers having snow plows.

Somehow, the unseen forces of Fahrenheit and Celsius predetermine that polar opposites often marry one another and then spend the rest of their lives slyly adjusting the thermostat.

My better (and partially frozen) half insists more people like a room on the warm side than the cool side. I ask to see the research and tell him there are destination spots for people like that: Florida, Arizona and California.

“The cold is invigorating,” I say.

He says, “Id’s fweewing,” or something like that.

He says no man should suffer from hypothermia in his own house.

I suggest he run in place.

He says he has been for the last 30 minutes.

“I don’t see you moving,” I say.

He responds, “That’s because my limbs are frozen.”

The place we are most comfortable is in the car, where we have dual temperature controls. “Feels like” we may be taking a lot of road trips between now and spring.

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Don’t let Hundredth Day take you by surprise

The husband found a piece of paper titled “Things I want to do before I’m 100 years old” in the family room.

He asked if it was mine. It was on a little table with little chairs where little grandkids sit when they come to visit. I’m short, but not that short.

I said it was not mine, but thanks for asking.

Several of the grands celebrated their hundredth day in school recently. Clearly, one of them had left some schoolwork here. I got to thinking maybe someone brought the worksheet hoping to use us as research.

For the record, neither of us are close to 100. Furthermore, if genetics plays a large part in such things, only one of us will ever get close and it won’t be me.

In response to previous questions about age that we have had to answer, we would like to reiterate that:

No, neither of us ever rode in a covered wagon.

No, life was not black and white when we were kids.

No, we were not alive when Abe Lincoln was alive.

No, neither of us were first to discover fire or invent the wheel.

Two of the girls celebrated Hundredth Day by dressing up like old women, pulling their long hair back into buns, donning cardigans and small print dresses, dangling reading glasses from ribbons around their necks, penciling in lines on their faces.

One of their mothers texted us pictures of these hunched over, forlorn looking creatures. I immediately texted back: “What? No hearing aids?” I also tried to start an #oldpeoplerock hashtag, but it didn’t catch fire. It didn’t even spark.

One of the girls completed the worksheet writing: “Some things I would like to accomplish before I’m one hundred are getting married, having kids, having grandkids, mastering piano and getting braces. But those are just a few things I’d like to do before I’m dead.”

The kindergartener celebrated Hundredth Day counting by 1s to 100, by 5s to 100 and by 10s to 100. Counting by 10s gets you to 100 with amazing speed, which is probably a realistic representation of how fast time passes once you hit 50.

After thinking on the matter, I concluded that things I’d like to do before I turn 100 aren’t that different from things I hope to do by the end of the week – listen more than I talk (doubtful), love others better (needs improvement), summon courage in the face of adversity (fingers crossed), beat the livin’ daylights out of every 24 hours, keep learning, keep doing, keep trying (a work in progress).

In the meantime, I’m just glad none of them who dressed like they were 100 tried to raid my closet.


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Snow days slip sliding away

A moment of silence, please, as we mark the passing of one of the great joys of childhood — snow days.

Snow days are a pony ride, birthday party and Christmas all rolled into one.

No two words are sweeter to a child’s ears than “snow day.”

A snow day is a holiday you didn’t see coming, an unexpected reprieve from yet one more day of the same ol’, same ol’.

Before the days of Twitter and email notifications, our kids would sit glued to the TV screen as school closings scrolled by in alphabetical order, waiting to see their school listed. If it wasn’t, they’d sit through the whole loop again hoping it would appear on the list the next time around,

Snow days meant the monolithic school was temporarily powerless over you—you had been rendered untouchable by a thick blanket of snow. Teachers might be at home tallying grades and creating more labyrinths of homework assignments on a snow day, but you?

You would be outside sledding, building forts, snowmen and snow women, making snow angels, having snowball fights, maybe even shoveling snow for the neighbors. When your cheeks turned scarlet, your lips cracked and bled and your lower limbs suffered early stages of frostbite, you trekked back inside, dumped your wet clothes on a heating vent where they would soon smell like wet dog, and went to find some hot chocolate.

Here in the Midwest, we recently spent days tracking pink and blue swaths on weather maps, anticipating a winter storm. Grocery shelves were stripped bare of bread, milk and eggs, shoppers evidently preparing for a French toast bonanza. The snow fell as predicted. Schools closed. Big yellow buses sat idle. Motorists stayed off the roads until the plows had a chance to do their thing.

For kids, the wonderful, marvelous snow day had finally arrived. But it wasn’t a wonderful, marvelous snow day for everyone. For many it was an e-learning day.

Just like that, someone waves a magic wand, and a much-anticipated snow day becomes a virtual learning day. (Insert collective groan here.) Of course, such decisions are couched in loftier terms such as “hybrid learning” or “repurposing.”

Should snow days all be repurposed into virtual learning days and fade into the passing of time, it will be most regrettable—a simple childhood joy sacrificed on the altar of technology.

Only time will tell if snow days remain snow days, or become a day when children once again sit transfixed before computer screens for hours on end.

Snow days won’t disappear like Frosty, dancing their way out of town singing about returning one day. They’ll forever melt into history on the broadband.

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