The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Friday, February 29, 2008

A Voice from the Middle

I don’t just say I am politically independent to ward off arguments or to hear myself talk. I really am. I regret that the Republican party has narrowed its candidates for nomination for president down to one person already. It is much too soon.

Looking on the Democratic side, I see one candidate hurt and confused that the other candidate is leaping ahead in number of delegates and popularity of the masses. Senator Clinton, you have shown clearly why independent voters like me wait to make our choices. Let me explain.

The highest office in the land is no place for a shrewd shrew. Watching your behavior, I try to imagine the leader of my country treating world leaders or even everyday contacts the way you have treated your opponent, the press and the public. You may have experience as a Senator of your adopted state, but the work there didn’t (though it should have) teach you much about diplomacy, niceness, public relations or people skills.

It is unfortunate that those in the public eye are going to hear negative things said about themselves and even their children. Unfortunate, but frequent. To shrug off all dignity and reply with fury when you felt your child was wounded was not a good thing, Senator. She is a big girl; it was herself whose reply, if any, should have been heard. I look into an imaginary future and see that same reaction happening if someone somewhere in the world angers you, and what would you do when entertainers and political columnists and cartoonists do what they have always done, and make you and your imaginary White House a pillory? See, Senator, not everyone in the world is going to like you. Saying “Shame on you ... “ makes no points in the diplomatic or good manners circles, not even the polite corner. Acting a shrew is not going to work with world leaders, either.

Neither did you learn about keeping the spirit of your word, not diving through the loopholes. When the delegates were removed from Florida, your party decided not to campaign there. I believe all Democrats campaigning signed something to that effect, agreeing to the party edict. The day before the Florida primary election it was all the news that you were in Florida – though not campaigning. Yep. All the news. Very Shrewd. Marketing people will tell you that any publicity is good publicity, and that said, it appears to me (and most likely others) that you broke the spirit of your word, your signature, visiting Florida and making news in Florida the day before that state's primary .

I could go on.

This is why I stay in the middle. Nominees and candidates will eliminate themselves; if given enough time, real personalities will emerge and thinking people will give serious thought to how we want our country represented in the world. I am certainly not against having a woman as president, but she must be presidential material.

We still have a bit over eight months before our presidential election. Who’s next?


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Small Talk

Youngest Offspring (YO) has been writing lately of things people say, things people ask. I read these and offered a rather glib comment – I told him that this was small talk, that nobody really cared about his answers. I’ve thought about it a lot since I wrote it, and I think maybe I made a sweeping statement that nobody cares – when there are definitely important exceptions. “Nobody’ is a pretty big word to use, saying anything, much less talking about who cares.

I know I care – but most of the things YO wrote in response to those who asked - I already know. I mean – this is my kid, and he is writing about the facts of his life. Yet I read with interest these answers to the questions, curiously wanting to know how he described some of these events. After all, he is a grown man. There are some things he mentioned in his response that I didn’t know.

Beside me, I’m sure there are others in his life who do not consider it small talk to ask what he does or who he is. Who among us has not found someone fascinating, and wanted to know all about that person, purely because we are interested and care to know? It happens a lot, not just when we become infatuated or begin to love someone, but whenever we notice a person and decide to ourselves, “Hmm – this is someone I would really like to know better!”

Many people do not answer when someone asks personal questions, or we give non-answers, glib throwaway lines that are often funny, but definitely evasive. Maybe there is a distrustfulness, or maybe we don’t want to let the asker into our private selves for our own reasons. Not answering – or giving a small talk answer – conveniently stops the inquisitions, and we are safe unto ourselves again.

I live in a place that seems to run on small talk. There are some among us who walk around the place with our heads down, not acknowledging anyone else, but the rest of us greet those we pass in the hallways and in the courtyard. We say, “Hey, how’s it going?” or “How are ya?” or “How’re ya doing?” which translates into “Hello. I see you. I don’t know you well, but I see you every day and we live in the same place, so I want to be polite. I want you to think I am friendly. I hope you are well.” It’s a short exchange, lasting only the few seconds it takes to pass one another. Same thing happens in grocery stores and pet stores and department stores and drug stores and it means about the same.

Just for fun, I decided to answer anyone who asked me how I am with, “I’m crazy as a loon!” just to see if anyone really paid attention. I was surprised how many actually did – and how many “Huh?”s I got. I do it still, sometimes. One of my friends hates it. He reminds me of something I told him several years ago, something I learned from a very smart man. The smart man told me to listen to what things I say most often. He said it is the things one says most often that indicate how we really feel about ourselves.

I am going to leave the computer now and go tell that woman in the mirror that she is bright, funny and kinda cute...

Today's Topic is ...

Yep -- today I am writing about toilet paper.

I don't know anything about its history, and I have no idea what folks did before it came along - it's just always been there for me. Those of us who have enjoyed it all our lives consider it a necessity, right up there with bread and water and soap.

I remember reacting to a large jump in the price of toilet paper, I think it was somewhere around 20 - 25 years ago, by writing to the company of the brand I used. I told them not to forget that they were selling a "one-use throw-away product."

Enter the 1990s and the creation of the double roll. I clearly see the attempt of the industry to hold down costs in making these, and they were handier than ever. It held the price to minimal changes for some time.

Now the Toilet Paper Industry is trying its best again to keep the price the same for a longer period of time. The rolls aren't getting smaller. In fact, I have seen one company go to triple rolls, even offering an extension to fit over the standard rod in the toilet paper holder so the larger size would fit. No - many, many companies have reduced the size of each sheet of toilet paper. It varies now from 4.27 X 4.0 inches to a larger 4.5 X 4.0 inches. I don't know when this started. Early on changes, if there were any, were far more subtle than now. I noticed. There is currently a whole inch of play room in the rod of my toilet paper holder.

Much depends on the brand, of course, and the size of each sheet is on the package, usually on the lower right of the front of the wrapper.

File this in the "In case you were wondering" file.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Just Another Valentine's Day

Those who have known me for more than a year know how I feel about February 14 - otherwise known as "Heart Day," "Cupid's Day," "Love Day," or "(St.)Valentine's Day." You know the background of this "holiday." (Or if you don't and want to, check it out here ) No -- this isn't about the history or the around-the-world traditions regarding today's celebrations. This is about people looking out for people. I write about how, for every other holiday, we look out for the unfortunate folk that have less than we do, and see that they at least have dinner on Thanksgiving, something in their socks for Christmas, a chick or an egg or some such on Easter. In general, we are a charitable people - except when it comes to Valentine's Day.

When was the last time you were reveling in the glorious feeling of being loved on Valentine's day and gave even a half-thought to your friend, your sister or brother, or - yes, in the spirit of the other holidays, even a stranger! - who was not romantically attached to anyone; someone you know who has no significant other with whom to share this day ? Have you once thought of looking after these folks who go it alone? See what I mean? We have ALWAYS been neglected on Valentine's Day.

Well - this year is different. Someone remembered those of us who are unattached, who have no one to send or recieve flowers to or from. Today we have (Ta Da!)

Unconditional Chocolate!

The kind people who make Dove (r) Ice Cream have, whether unwittingly or not, created exactly what we need on a day like today. Let all the lovers have their Unconditional Love -- we have our Unconditional Chocolate (tm)! Chocolate is, after all, "The Great Sublimator" - the "instead-of" savior for so many of us- and all done done so tastefully , thank you , with no overt labels or advertising to embarass us or anything. At last! Something for the solo folk among us!

I was introduced to this marvel by a friend with whom I shared dinner the other night. He asked what he could bring, so I left dessert up to him. It was outrageous! My friend, also a singleton, bought chocolate-on-chocolate-in- chocolate-cake, and brought this ice cream as an added touch.


So to the makers of Dove(r) Unconditional Love ice cream, thank you - thank you - thank you! To those who know an unattached person, consider gifting him or her with this delight for Valentine's Day to show he/she is not forgotten!

To those who recieve this as a gift from your friend or family member today, bear in mind this is an entire pint of Unconditional Chocolate(tm) and it contains 4 (four) individual servings. (Yeah, right!) But I have heard (and this is purely a rumor) that chocolate has no calories for the whole of Valentine's Day.


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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

When did THIS happen?

I remember some years ago -- let's see, Taran was about 18, so it was about 18 years ago - I was talking to him when he suddenly said, looking at my chin, "Why don't you pull that hair OUT?"
*Sigh* I had never noticed a hair on my chin.

"So pull it out," I told him. He did - and showed it to me. It was long and dark and a bit crinkly, not at all like the awful peach fuzzy type hair that had decorated my cheeks for the previous ten years or so. It was then that I realized something rather kind about getting older: As changes happen to us, like the growth of hair on chins, we become oblivious to them by another means - in this case, my eyes were going just enough where I could not see the hair (okay - I never really looked for it before then) in the mirror. And as we get older, we adapt. Now I feel for hairs on my chin and pluck each little dickens out by touch - whenever I remember.

My first reaction, of course, was to go find a magnifying mirror. I figured I really needed to keep an eye on my face and chin and such, if it was going to sprout hairs that looked like they belonged elsewhere. I found one on e-Bay - lighted, with 8 times magnification! I won the auction, got it for under $20 including shipping, and set it up for a good look at my face. I gathered together tissues, 2 sizes of tweezers, a nice warm and damp washcloth and settled down to have a look-see.


Let me tell you, NOBODY needs 8 times magnification to look at her face. There are some things you really don't want to know, and in real life no one else is EVER going to get so close as 8 times magnification! I packed away the magnifying mirror. I take it out only when my eyebrows grow over a half inch long and need to be rearranged and plucked.

In the eighteen years or so that has passed since I discovered I do grow hair on my chinny chin chin, other indications of age have crept in while I wasn't looking. My hair is full of platinum blonde streaks. People pay good money to get these cool streaks in their hair - and here come mine, free for nothing. I've tried several times to cover it with L'Oreal 5A, which is a nice medium ash brown, but when it starts to grow out, I find I probably should have used a darker shade, after all, regardless of the helpful hints I've gotten over the years that as one gets older, she should color her hair a bit lighter. I've even started cutting it short now and then, when I think of it, so it doesn't look like I am younger than I really am...

And then -- and then, one morning last summer, I woke up and discovered I had turned 60 (sixty) years old. I have no idea how I got here. That I did becomes obvious, when I stop and think about it. My joints are worn out. They call it "Degenerative Joint Disease" - which is just another way of saying arthritis, I suppose. Two by two my joints, starting at the bottom and moving up, have lost all their cartilage. Getting around is difficult, but at least I can. Some of my friends cannot. And I am having more and more "Senior Moments," which come over a person with no warning and yet there is still enough thinking going on upstairs where one is aware of it and embarassed, uncomfortable. I suppose in time that will pass. I do expect to be developing a more jaded vision of myself as well as a wider sense of humor as time goes by.
But I was startled when looking at some of the photos one of my grandaughters posted on . I was in this picture with some other folks and I did not recognize myself. I know, I know -- we are not supposed to think of ourselves being our body image - but I honestly did not recognize myself. I know I need to lose weight, but I had no idea I am so fat. I know my smile has undergone some changes, but I did not recognize it as mine, as me.
I thought I was smaller. I thought my smile was prettier. I thought I was younger.

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