Category Archives: Today Is…

You Fishing?

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Tackle Box With Fishing Lures and Rods

According to the National Today website, yesterday was National Go Fishing Day. I didn’t go fishing yesterday, but in honor of the missed “holiday,” today I’ll tell you a story about fishing of a different kind.

Have you ever been to a gas station and seen colored circles in the concrete? Those colored circles are lids to the spill buckets. I don’t know exactly what role the spill buckets play in the fuel center system, but I do know water should not be allowed to sit in them. If water sits in them, the water can (somehow) get into the fuel, a huge no-no.

At the fuel center where I worked briefly, water ended up in at least half of the spill buckets when it rained more than a drizzle Some would only have a bit of water in them, while others would end up with a couple inches of liquid in them. It was the job of the fuel clerk on duty to use absorbent pads to soak up the liquid.

Checking the spill buckets was on the list of duties for both the opening and closing clerks. When I opened (often) or closed (hardly ever), I made sure to act accordingly where the spill buckets were concerned.

One day my shift started at noon. The midday worked did not have “check spill buckets” on the list of duties, so I did not check the spill buckets. After the opening clerk had left to get items to restock the fuel center, one of the assistant store managers showed up at the fuel center and checked the spill buckets. She found about two inches of water in most of them and sent me out with absorbent pads to soak up the water.

Soaking up the liquid in the spill buckets was one of my least favorite

Man Wearing White Tank Top

duties. For one thing, it was dirty work. Just lifting the lids left dust and grease on my hands. When I had to stick my hands down down down into the spill bucket to put the absorbent pads in place, I’d usually end up with dirt, grease, and mud (and sometimes dirty, muddy grease) all over my forearms.

Another reason I hated dealing with the spill buckets was because doing so was dangerous. I had to get on my knees in order to reach down into the spill buckets. Although I am not an insubstantial person, I felt invisible while so low to the ground. Also, the spill buckets were located in an area drivers often zipped through as a shortcut out of the parking lot. Every time I was on the ground trying to dry out those spill buckets, I felt like the living ingredient in a recipe for disaster.

Once when I was putting pads in a spill bucket, a small SUV came too close for comfort. I don’t know where it came from. I think it was heading to pump 10, but for some reason the driver started backing it up. To say it almost hit me is a bit of an exaggeration, but it certainly scared me. It wasn’t there, then suddenly it was.

Hey! Hey! Hey!  I started yelling. I can’t remember if I jumped up or crouched there paralyzed with fear.

The driver stopped the vehicle and stuck his head out the rolled-down window. His eyes were big. Are you ok? he asked me.

I’m ok, I told him. You didn’t hit me, but you did scare me.

You scared me, he said, but he wasn’t the one who’d come close to bodily harm. Then he rolled up his window and left without fueling up.

I guess he was so scared by almost hitting you that he decided to go get gas somewhere else, another customer joked.

On the day the manager found inches of water in the spill buckets and had me handle the situation, I asked the morning fuel clerk about it when he came back with the items for the restock. He said he had put absorbent pads into the spill buckets early in the day, but the fuel delivery guy must have pulled them out when he came over later. At best, my coworker had done half his job. It wasn’t enough to put pads in there and never check on them again. He should have gone back to pull the soggy pads out, at which point he would have seen the delivery driver had pulled them out already and that there was still water that needed to be absorbed.

After that day, if I came in at noon on a day after it had rained, I checked the spill buckets even though doing so wasn’t on my list of responsibilities. Whenever I asked my coworker about the condition of the spill buckets after a rain, he always thought I was talking about the buckets with squeegees and fluid for cleaning windshields. When I point in the direction of the spill buckets and said, no, those, he always assured me they were fine. They were never fine. Finally I quit asking him and just handled the problem.

One morning I opened the fuel center and checked the spill buckets as I was supposed to. To my chagrin, I found water in more than half of them. I went back to the kiosk and grabbed several absorbent pads. I also grabbed two orange safety cones and put those down on either side of me. I hoped drivers would see the orange cones even if they missed my big butt and fluorescent pink safety vest.

While I was down on my knees, I saw a small pickup truck pull in next to the air pump. I knew the air pump wasn’t working and was glad there was an “out of order” sign on it. A few minutes later, I noticed a man walking across the fuel center toward me.

Is the air pump really out of order? he asked me.

It took everything I had not to say something sarcastic to the guy. Why would we put an “out of order” sign on an air pump that was functioning normally? If we were lying about the air pump being out of order, why did he think I would be honest with him and tell him it was really working?

I held my tongue except to say, Yes, sir. It’s really out of order.

Oh, that’s too bad, he said as if he were hoping I’d change my story about the functionality of the air pump.

I exercised my right to remain silent while I continued to shove absorbent pads down into the wet spill bucket.

Are you fishing? the fellow asked me, and I thought I was going to lose my mind.

I know the guy thought he was making a good joke, but for a joke to work, the recipient of it has to think it’s funny too. I didn’t think it was one bit funny. Annoying? Yes. Ridiculous? For sure. Funny? Not a bit.

The fellow reminded me of my grandmother’s second husband who insisted on calling me “blondie” even though I had dark hair. Neither man really cared about making me laugh; both men just wanted a reaction out of me, and if that reaction was irritation or anger, well, that was better than nothing.

I didn’t give this asshat the satisfaction of my anger, but he probably could

Selective Focus of Brown Fishing Reel

tell I was irritated. Of course I wasn’t fishing. I obviously wasn’t fishing. I didn’t even have a fishing pole. Did he think I was noodling for catfish living in a concrete hole?

No, I’m not fishing, I said, and I’m sure he could tell I thought he was being an idiot. I’m getting water out of here so it doesn’t mix with the fuel.

Then I turned my attention back to the wet spill bucket and the absorbent pads. When I looked up again, the fellow was heading back to his truck. I was glad to be done with his foolish questions. 

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/tackle-box-with-fishing-lures-and-rods-1430123/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-wearing-white-tank-top-1325619/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/selective-focus-of-brown-fishing-reel-1687242/.

National Olive Day

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According to the National Day Calendar website, June 1 is National Olive Day. The website says,

Divina founded National Olive Day in 2015 as a way to share the culinary history and traditions of this amazing food.

When I worked in California, I saw lots of olive groves when I came down from the mountain. I even saw a giant olive sitting in a parking lot.

That olive is the world’s largest, and it sits in Lindsay, California. According to the Weird California website, there are two giant olives in California. The one pictured above is a black olive. Weird California says,

It was originally outside the Lindsay Company’s plant in town, but when the plant unfortunately closed, it was moved outside what was, at the time, fittingly, the Olive Tree Inn…The Olive Tree Inn, however, is now a Super 8 Motel. It is not too far from the junctions of Highways 137 and 65. It is located in the motel parking lot, sitting proudly on a pedestal. It is made of concrete..

From the October 2013 article “Growing Olives – Information” by Richard Molinar UC Cooperative Extension Fresno, retired, I learned

California is the only state in the nation producing a commercially significant crop of olives. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of the ripe olives consumed in the United States come from California…The top olive-producing counties in California are Tulare, Tehama and Glenn counties.

A-ha! Guess what! Lindsay, CA is in Tulare County. It makes sense that Tulare County would be the home of the world’s largest olive.

Have you ever wondered if an olive is a fruit or a vegetable? An article by Caroline Picard for Good Housekeeping answers that questions. Olives are

… technically fruits.

The stones inside [olives] act as the seeds for the Olea europaea tree. In any botanist’s book that means they’re technically classified as fruits — specifically a kind called drupes, a.k.a. stone fruits. This category also includes sweeter produce like mango, dates, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums..

You may also be wondering if olives are a healthy food choice. According to the article “Olives 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits” by Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, RDN (Ice) on the Healthline website,

Olives are a good source of vitamin E, iron, copper, and calcium…Olives are particularly rich in antioxidants, including oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, oleanolic acid, and quercetin…that may contribute to a variety of benefits, such as lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

While olives do seem to be good for most people, you probably don’t want to eat them right off the tree. According to the Olive FAQ on the DeLallo website

While olives are edible straight from the tree, they are intensely bitter. Olives contain oleuropein and phenolic compounds, which must be removed or, at least, reduced to make the olive palatable…There are a number of ways that an olive can be “cured,” though it is more like a fermentation process…[Olives are] cured in one of four different ways: natural brine, lye, salt or air curing.

One type of olive I would not celebrate National Olive Day with are these Pearls Olives to Go! taco flavored ones. They were given to me by an acquaintance who’d gotten then at a food bank. He wouldn’t even try them. The Man wouldn’t try them either. I’ll try most any food once, so I opened the package and popped one of these olives into my mouth. How bad could they be?

The package contained some of the nastiest food stuff I have ever consumed. I ate one. It was so bad I ate another a little while later to make sure it really was as bad as I remembered. It was. I threw them away. I don’t throw away unspoiled food, but I couldn’t figure out how to disguise the unpleasantness of an olive saturated with fake taco flavor.

I hope you find some delicious olives to enjoy while you celebrate National Olive Day 2020!

I took the photos in this post.

National Postcard Week 2020

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I created this postcard to celebrate National Postcard Week 2020. How are you going to celebrate this week?

National Postcard Week started yesterday and continues through Saturday. Never heard of this “holiday”? Don’t worry. I’ll tell you all about it.

I created this postcard too.

According to Wikipedia,

National Postcard Week is an annual event to promote the use of postcards, held in the first full week of May since 1984.[1][2] Started in the US, it is also celebrated by deltiologists in other countries.[3] Special commemorative postcards have been printed for Postcard week by various organizations, especially postcard clubs,[4][5] since as early as 1985.[6]

A 2018 article about National Postcard Week on the Modern Postcard blog offers information about the history of postcards. Postcards in the United States got their start in the 1800s.

…on February 27, 1861, the US Congress passed an act that allowed privately printed cards, weighing one ounce or under, to be sent in the mail. During that same year, John P. Charlton copyrighted the first postcard in America.

I created these cool postcards as well and sent them out in time for Valentine’s Day.

Author Jessica Biondo goes on to say that over time postcards

became colorful, collectible and more complex, and they were even used as prizes and travel souvenirs!

I didn’t create these postcards. I bought them at the supermarket. They have proven quite popular for trading.

Postcard styles changed and developed over time. Here are the three eras of postcards as laid out by Biondo:

The Early Modern Era of postcards was 1916-1930, known as the white border period. American printing technology had advanced, creating higher quality postcards with white borders around the featured picture.

The Linen Card Era of postcards was 1930-1945, enabling publishers to print postcards on linen paper stock with brilliant colors…

The Photochrom Era of postcards is 1939-present, remaining as the most popular era of postcards today when it comes to quality print reproduction.

I designed this postcard featuring a photo I took of the New Mexico state insect, the tarantual hawk wasp.

I couldn’t find much about National Postcard Week 2020 online. A seller on eBay has a couple of National Postcard Week 2020 postcards for sell, and there is a National Postcard Week swap on Swap-bot. Maybe the COVID-19 global pandemic is overshadowing postcards this year.

I did find out a little more history of National Postcard Week from the aformentioned swap on Swap-bot.

National Postcard Week was the brain child of: John H. McClintock; DeeDee Parker; Roy Cox and Richard Novick and others. It began in 1984 as a way to promote our hobby.

Cool! It’s nice to be able to link some fellow deltiologists to the origins of the celebration.

I won these lovely ParcelTonguePaperCo postcards in a giveaway.

Wait! What’s a deltiologist? I’m glad you asked.

According to Wikipedia,

Deltiology (from Greek δελτίον, deltion, diminutive of δέλτος, deltos, “writing tablet, letter”; and -λογία, -logia) is the study and collection of postcards. Professor Randall Rhoades of Ashland, Ohio, coined a word in 1945 that became the accepted description of the study of picture postcards.[1][2]

So if deltiology is the study and collection of postcards, a deltiologist is a person who studies and collects postcards. I don’t actually study or collect postcards, so I guess I’m not actually a deltiologist. I am a postcard enthusiast, but I don’t have a formal collection, and I don’t study the cards I receive or send. I enjoy the social aspects of postcards. I like sending and receiving mail. I like brightening people’s day with postcards, and I like having my day brightened too, but nothing about postcards is serious or academic to me.

I first heard about National Postcard Week last year on Instagram. I swapped postcards with a couple of people who had created special cards for National Postcard Week. I was impressed by folks who went to so much trouble to celebrate the week.

I receive this postcard last year during National Postcard week. It came from @mailboxmayhem in sunny central Texas.

I decided last year that I wanted to create my own postcards for the 2020 National Postcard Week. In February I started the process. I went to Vistaprint and figured out how to upload my photos to my account. Once I picked out the right template for my card, I added my photos and appropriate text. It was all really easy.

I ordered 100 copies of my postcard. I ended up sending out about 65 of them. The rest I gave to people I suspected would otherwise not send out postcards during the special week. It was fun to send my cards out into the world one way or another.

I encourage you to send out postcards this week too. They don’t have to be specially designed cards that you paid to have printed. Just use any postcards you have or can buy. (I sometimes buy touristy postcards at larger supermarkets and even Wal-Mart.) Heck, you can even make your own postcards from food packages you have around the house.

I made these postcards from a Boca burger box.

(If you want to make your own postcards, keep the postcard requirements from the United States Postal Service in mind. According to Mailing.com, to qualify for the postcard rate of 35 cents,

a mail piece must be rectangular and meet these dimensions:

At least 3-1/2” high X 5” long X 0.007” thick

No more than 4-1/4” high X 6” long X 0.016” thick

Meet those requirements, and you’re got yourself a postcard!)

Whatever postcard you end up with, write “National Postcard Week 2020” on it somewhere, and you’re good to go.

Is it strange to be celebrating postcards in a time of global pandemic? I think not. Sharing postcards makes total sense in these difficult times. Now more than ever I think people want tangible proof of their connections with others. They want to hold on to something that says, “I love you”; they want to be able to sleep with some small token of affection under their pillows.

I had this postcard made to promote my blog.

Happy National Postcard Week from the Rubber Tramp Artist.

Happy Earth Day!

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Mother Earth loves it when we reduce, reuse, and recycle!

Please spend some time today thinking about what you can do to help the earth, preferably by buying and using less! Remember, reduce and reuse come before recycle.

I took the photo in this post.

In Praise of Fresh Garlic

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According to the National Day Calendar website, Sunday, April 19 is National Garlic Day. In honor of this upcoming holiday celebrating the aromatic member of the lily family, today I will sing the praises of fresh garlic.

I grew to love fresh garlic in my 20s. I put it in nearly every savory dish I cooked. When I heard of its medicinal properties (antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal, according to the article “7 Raw Garlic Benefits for Fighting Disease” by Dr. Josh Axe, DC, DMN, CNS ), I began to eat it raw and drink it in a sort of tea. If I began feeling rundown or the least bit sick, I’d add freshly minced garlic to hot water with a dash of cayenne and maybe a splash of honey. I’d swallow the bits of garlic down and wait for it to do its healing magic. I traveled with my garlic press and fists of Allium sativum , and I took on its aroma.

(FYI: Garlic breath isn’t because of what’s happening in one’s mouth. According to the Web MD article “Why Garlic Is the Bad Breath King” by Andrea M. Braslavsky, garlic breath begins in the gut. In summary, “the gas [from the garlic] was going into the blood, circulating around the body, and being excreted in the breath and urine.” That’s why you can brush your teeth and still have garlic breath.)

After I became homeless, there was no time for fresh produce, and I fell out of the garlic habit. Once I got a van, I experimented with the garlic that comes minced in jars. That stuff was quite convenient (if a little pricey), and was great until I ran out of ice in my cooler and the garlic got warm. Even if it tasted ok, the garlic that came to room temperature after the jar was opened left my tummy feeling unhappy.

When The Man and I started traveling together, he wanted garlic, so we experimented with the minced garlic in the jar. This time The Man was the one with the unhappy tummy, and by “unhappy,” I mean sick. The garlic from the jar—once we ran out of ice in the cooler and it got warm—was tearing him up.

After we gave up on minced garlic in the jar, I used garlic powder sometimes, but it always seemed lacking. When I saw dried garlic flakes in the store, I decided to give them a try. The garlic flakes were tastier than garlic powder, and we were satisfied whenever we sprinkled them on a dish. The problem occurred when I couldn’t find them in the grocery store. It seemed like even small grocery stores carried onion flakes, but garlic flakes were few and far between.

One day at the end of 2018, we ran out of garlic flakes, and I couldn’t’ find any in the grocery store in the small Arizona town where we were staying. I didn’t want to spend money on garlic powder I knew would leave me feeling dissatisfied, so I broke down and bought two fists of garlic.

You may wonder why I never got back into the habit of cooking with fresh garlic. I had a van and then a fifth wheel. I don’t have any good reasons. I no longer had a garlic press and chopping up a couple of cloves of garlic every evening seemed inconvenient. Fresh garlic is somewhat sticky and it seemed to take too much water to clean the knife and my hands and the cutting board. I guess the main problem is that I am basically lazy and typically take the path of least resistance. I wanted something totally convenient that would taste as good as fresh garlic.

I guess I’d forgotten how tasty fresh garlic is. When The Man and I ate the first dish I added the fresh garlic to, we were blown away. We could taste the garlic, and it added a depth of flavor no amount of garlic flakes could compare to.

I’d been on the fresh garlic bandwagon for several months without a garlic press. Every night I’d chop chop chop several cloves of garlic to add to our meal. It was a bit more work than sprinkling garlic . powder, but the extra effort was worth it because the fresh garlic tasted so much better.

Metal garlic press with three gloves of garlic
I scored this sturdy garlic press for less than a dollar.

I got lucky one day when I stopped in at my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Each ReStore is different, and the one I go to carries a lot of kitchenware: plates, bowls, eating and cooking utensils, mugs, glasses, pots and pans. I always look on both sides of the kitchen aisle, hoping for a good deal on something I can use in meal preparation. On this particular day I was looking for a garlic press and I found one! It’s Chefmate brand and very heavy duty. This garlic press is likely to last for years. The best part? The price. The man working the cash register only charged me $1 for the garlic press and two forks. Hell yes, I’ll take a good quality garlic press for only 33⅓ cents!

Th press really helps me keep up with my love affair with garlic without a lot of muss or fuss. Yippie for my garlic press and most of all, yippie for fresh garlic.

God’s Time

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Beige and White Clocks on Wall

We started Daylight Saving Time yesterday. The event snuck up on me (as it often does) and I didn’t get this post scheduled to pop up before it was time to spring forward. I hope everyone remembered to update their clocks. In honor of this moving of the clocks, today I’ll tell you about my grandmother’s reaction to Daylight Saving Time becoming the law of the land.

The events I will relay today happened before I was a conscious being, but I’ve heard the story retold so many times, I feel confident I can share it as if I had been there.

My paternal grandmother was a hardheaded Cajun woman. Born in 1913, she birthed my father, her youngest child, at the ripe old age of 32. She married and buried four husbands and tried to be a good Catholic until the day she died. Did I mention she was hardheaded? Once she made up her mind, there was no swaying her.

Daylight Saving Time has existed in one form or another in the United States since the turn of the 20th century. According to Wikipedia,

Daylight saving time was established by the Standard Time Act of 1918. The Act was intended to save electricity for seven months of the year, during World War I.[3] DST was repealed in 1919 over a Presidential veto..

During World War II, Congress enacted the War Time Act (56 Stat. 9) on January 20, 1942. Year-round DST was reinstated in the United States on February 9, 1942, again as a wartime measure to conserve energy resources.[5] This remained in effect until after the end of the war.

From 1945 to 1966 U.S. federal law did not address DST. States and cities were free to observe DST or not, and most places that did observe DST did so from the last Sunday in April to the last Sunday in September. In the mid-1950s many areas in the northeastern United States began extending DST to the last Sunday in October. The lack of standardization led to a patchwork where some areas observed DST while adjacent areas did not…

According to the article “Here’s When and Why Daylight Saving Time

White Clock Reading at 2:12

Started in the US” by Kathleen Elkins,

Daylight saving time didn’t officially become a law until 1966, under the Uniform Time Act.

I can only imagine this impending springing ahead an hour must have caused much discussion across the nation. Certainly my family members were discussing it. My grandmother, for one, thought the idea was ridiculous. Nobody was really going to go along with this foolish idea. She maintained that most people would refuse to participate. She would not be participating, that was for sure.

Her kids tried to explain to her that there wasn’t a choice. Folks weren’t going to be able to choose between participating and sitting on the sidelines. People would grow accustomed to the twice yearling changing of the time. The hands on clocks would be moved, people would lose (or gain depending on the time of year) an hour (of sleep or watching TV or whatever they did with their leisure time), life would go on.

My grandmother was adamant. She was sure people would not go for such foolishness. She was sure people were not going to change their clocks and their lives, and certainly they would not give up an hour of sleep.

As the night of the change drew closer, my grandmother’s friends and family members shrugged and admitted they would move the hands on their clocks. What else could they do? Businesses were going to recognize the time change, and employees who wanted to get to work on time were going to have to recognize the change too. There just wasn’t any way around it.

My grandmother still maintained that she simply wouldn’t do it.

What about mass, Mom? one of her kids asked, pointing out that if MawMaw didn’t recognize the time change, she was going to be late for church on Sunday.

Oh no! My grandmother wasn’t hearing that. The Church was run on God’s time, she said. No way was the Church going to participate in this time changing business. The Church would not be messing with God’s time.

Family folklore holds that the first Sunday of the national observation of

Analog Alarm Clock Displaying 07:00

Daylight Saving Time was also Easter Sunday. Of course, my grandmother went to bed on Holy Saturday without touching her clocks. She was confident she and the Catholic Church were on the same page when it came to God’s time. Surely mass would start at the same hour it always did.

MawMaw woke up on Easter Sunday joyous in the rising from the dead of her Lord Jesus Christ. She put on her best clothes, applied her makeup, and styled her hair. At just the right moment, she got into her car and drove herself the few blocks to the Catholic church she attended every week. She had plenty of time to get here, find a good seat, and still be early.

I wonder if she was confused when she arrived and found the parking lot already full. Easter is a holiday when lapsed Catholics come out of the woodwork, so maybe she chalked up the abundance of cars to the yearly brief return of the lost flock. In any case, she found a parking space on the outskirts of the lot.

She must have congratulated herself on being early as she walked across the lot toward the church. Even having to park so far away wasn’t going to make her late. She had plenty of time. I can imagine the small self-satisfied smile on her face. She knew she was early enough to find a good seat.

I’m sure she expected to walk into a quiet church. Perhaps the organist would be playing softly. Perhaps parishioners would be greeting each other in whispers. Perhaps she’d hear the soft rustling of people shuffling through the church, dipping into the holy water near the vestibule before making the sign of the cross, genuflecting, sliding into pews.

Surely she was surprised when she walked in and the church was not quiet at all. The priest must have been talking when she walked through the doors because she immediately knew she wasn’t early, but late. Mass was almost over, and in my family, walking into a church after the service had started was considered one of the most embarrassing things a Catholic could do. MawMaw must have been mortified.

White and Brown Tower Under Blue Sky

I wonder how long my grandmother stood there before she realized even the Catholic Church had forsaken God’s time and sprung forward.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/ancient-antique-art-business-277371/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/alarm-alarm-clock-analogue-clock-280257/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-clock-reading-at-2-12-1537268/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-and-brown-tower-under-blue-sky-2450283/.

Marketing Fail

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According to the What National Day Is It website, tomorrow is National Marketing Day. In honor of this dubious holiday, I want to share with you a total marketing fail I witnessed when I was a fuel clerk.

Closed Soda Bottles

A frail, elderly man shuffled toward the fuel center kiosk where I was working. When he got close, I turned on the intercom and asked how I could help him. I could hardly hear him when he spoke, even with the intercom set to high volume. I barely made out him asking, Do you have a Pepsi Coke?

I’m pretty sure he did not ask if we had Pepsi and Coke. I’m pretty sure he asked for a Pepsi Coke. He did not seem to be inquiring about two beverages but about some single entity.

I think he was using “coke” in a generic sense. For some reason, in the

Assorted Beverage Bottles

Southern USA “coke” has come to mean “soft drink,” what people in other parts of the country might refer to as “soda” or “pop” (or maybe even “soda pop.”) As a kid, I remember hearing the story of a waitress who asked, What kind of coke would you like? and being surprised that root beer, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, and even Coke were all appropriate responses.

I didn’t quite know how to answer the old man’s question. We had Pepsi

Person Holding Pepsi Can

products, and we had Coke products, but I thought he really wanted a Pepsi cola. I covered all the bases by pointing out the cooler where we kept all the Pepsi choices as well as the one cooler where we kept all the varieties of Coca-Cola.

The fellow studied one cooler, then the other. His final choice? A Diet Coke.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/closed-soda-bottles-1904262/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/assorted-beverage-bottles-1384039/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-pepsi-can-1292294/.

It’s the End of a Decade. What Have I Accomplished?

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Today is not just the end of the year, but the end of the decade. It doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true. Two decades of the 21st century are gone. Wasn’t it just the other day that we were partying like it was 1999?

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Apparently someone started a thing on Twitter in November by tweeting

“there’s only ONE MONTH left in the decade. what have you accomplished?”

According to the Mashable article “People Are Sharing Their Accomplishments of the Decade as 2019 Comes to an End” by Andy Moser,

[i]t began with the best intentions, but as things on Twitter tend to go, things quickly devolved into a mess of memes, sadness, and somehow, compassion and encouragement.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

However the answers to the questions left other people feeling, the question got me thinking about what I have done during the decade. Here’s the list of what I’ve accomplished since December 31, 2009.

  • Finished visiting all of the contiguous United States except Montana
  • Got into what turned out to be an abusive relationship
  • Left the abusive relationship again and again and again…and finally for good
  • Bought a van after hard work and lots of help from my friends
  • Went on an epic 2 month road trip with people I really cared about
  • Hit an elk and lost my van
  • Bought another van (after hard work and lots of help from my friends)
  • Worked even harder (and got some help from my friends) and bought a better van
  • Started a blog (in February 2015) and kept it up until now
  • Worked as a camp host
  • Wrote a book about my experiences as a camp host and self-published it
  • Met a nice guy who became my partner
  • Acquired a small piece of land and a small travel trailer where we live now with the dog
Photo by Crazy nana on Unsplash

Is that a lot to have accomplished in a decade or only a little? Is it enough? Should I have done more? I don’t know. All I know, is that’s what I’ve done.

I’d love to hear about what you have accomplished this decade. Please feel free to tell me about your accomplishments in the comments section below.

Thankful Thursdays

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The Man and I started a new tradition on Thanksgiving Day this year. I had a small blank book a friend found on a free shelf at a local thrift store and gave to me because of the sun on the cover. I decided the book would be a gratitude journal. I asked The Man if he would participate in filling the gratitude journal with me, and he agreed.

I found “50 Inspiring Gratitude Quotes” on Shutterfly and picked four of them to write on the book’s inside covers.

Two quotes read: "The root of joy is gratefulness."-- David Steindl-Rast and "Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty."--Doris Day
Two inspiring gratitude quotes. Looks like I forgot to cross the “t” in David Steindl-Rast’s name. Sorry about that, sir.

Our goal is to each write five things we are grateful for every day. Some days we get busy and forget to write our gratitude, but we try to pick up the next day. The book is not very thick, but when it is full, we’ll each have a record of about 150 things, people, and experiences for which we are thankful.

A man and dog stand on the edge of a cliff looking down at trees.
I’m grateful for The Man and Jerico the dog every day.

Sometimes it seems difficult to think of new things to appreciate. I’m thankful for The Man and Jerico the dog every day. Ditto LED lights, eggs, and our 4 wheel drive truck. The challenge I enjoy is identifying new things for which I feel gratitude.

In the spirit of recognizing new things for which I am grateful, I’m starting Thankful Thursdays here at the Rubber Tramp Artist blog. At least once a month (maybe more) I will share gratitude with my readers. Sometimes I’ll give a shout out to the people who support me and the blog monetarily, either by buying my crafts, becoming my patron on Patreon, or making a one-time donation. Other times I’ll thank the people who give me emotional and mental support. Sometimes I’ll share a quote pertaining to gratitude. Will you join me in making 2020 a year of thanks?

Two more gratitude quotes read: "When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears."--Anthony Robbins and "When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around."--Willie Nelson
Words of wisdom on gratitude from Anthony Robbins and Willie Nelson

I’ll start today with this list of the people who’ve given me financial and material support in the past couple months. Thanks to all of you who help me pay the bills and send goodies. I appreciate each of you.

List of gratitude. List reads: I'm grateful for Nancy, my newest patron on Patreon. I'm grateful for Shannan who sends me a donation every month. I'm grateful for Brent who contributed financially this month and has done so in the past. I'm grateful for Keri who bought two hats from me. I'm grateful for Val who bought a hat from me. I'm grateful for Bette Rae who bought a hat from me. I'm grateful for Felicia and Liz who sent yarn. I'm grateful to Jennifer who sent postcards. I'm grateful for Keith, my computer guy who is also a Patreon patron.
My list of gratitude. Gerry sent postcards too! Sorry I forgot to put her on the handwritten list.

What are you grateful for today? Please share your gratitude in the comments section below.

I took all of the photos in this post.

If you would like to support me, click on the “Become a patron” button at the top of the column on the right, or click on the “donate” button in the middle of that column.

In Praise of Hot Water Bottles and Sleeping Alone

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The beginning of winter is upon us. To help you prepare for cold weather sleeping, especially if you sleep alone in a van, car, or poorly insulated RV, here’s my story about how an improvised hot water bottle saved my cold butt.

You grow up with movies, books, television shows, and advertisements

Two People Laying on a Bed Covered With a Floral Comforter

telling you that when you find a romantic/sexual/love partner you’re going to sleep in the same bed. You learn the cuddling and snuggling (not to mention the s-e-x) will be amazing, and it is, until one of you (me) starts snoring and the other person (a light sleeper) can’t get any rest.

The Man tried using earplugs, and they helped for a while, but my snores apparently penetrated the orange spongy foam and hit his eardrums. I tired Breathe Right nasal strips (and their inferior competitor Clear Passage nasal strips) to stop my snoring. Again, they helped only for a while.

His tossing and turning while trying to get back to sleep woke me up, and if that wasn’t enough to disturb my sleep, him saying Honey? Honey! and asking me to roll over onto my left side certainly was.

Sleep deprivation brings out a demon in me. Lack of sleep makes me not just grumpy but downright angry. I think The Man harbors the same type of demon. We both knew it wasn’t my fault I was snoring, but he seemed to take it very personally. I knew he was only waking me and asking me to roll over out of self-preservation, but still I was furious at him for interrupting my sleep.

I went off to house sit for two weeks, and each of us got a fortnight of blissful sleep uninterrupted by snores, tossing, turning, the middle of the night bathroom needs of another person, or calls for dream analysis in the wee hours. We were both well rested and no longer angry at each other, so we tried sleeping together again.

We didn’t even have one happy night together. My first night home, I passed out and started snoring  before he even drifted off. He woke me up several times in the night asking me to roll onto my left side, which I did. I’m a natural back sleeper, so I always returned to my back (and my snores) as soon as I reached a deep level of sleep. At 4am, The Man clicked on the light and exclaimed that our sleeping arrangement wasn’t working for him. It wasn’t working for me either. Our sleeping demons were back.

During my childhood my maternal grandparents slept in twin beds across the room from each other. This arrangement always confused me. Every other married couple I knew—my parents, my aunts and uncles, the people on TV—shared a bed. Didn’t my grandparents love each other? I realize now that it’s possible to like and love someone and not want to spend 8 hours out of each 24 in bed next to that person. (I also realize that the sleeping arrangement of my grandparents may have come from the desire to be good Catholics while feeling like their seven children were all the mouths they wanted to feed and butts they wanted to diaper).

Because The Man and I didn’t have the luxury of space enough for separate beds (much less the separate rooms it would really require for him to get away from my snores), I offered to sleep in my van. He protested, but it was really the easiest solution. There was already a bed in my van, but his camp cot had been folded and taken out of his minivan. My van was a mess, and it was easier for me to clear a small space on the bed for my short self rather than clean up the whole space so he could be comfortable. Also, The Man likes to wake up early, make coffee, and meditate. I sleep late and don’t move around before sunrise, so it made more sense for The Man to stay in the fifth wheel (where we were living at the time) where he could stand up and use the stove. I had no doubt I would be totally fine in my van. After all, I’d slept in my van before, and I knew someday I’d sleep in it again. Apparently, the sleeping in it again day had come sooner than I had expected.   

Selective Focus of Frozen Tree Twigs

Unfortunately, my return to the van coincided with an epic cold snap. Down in the southern Sonoran Desert where we were staying that winter, temperatures seldom drop below freezing. However, the first few nights I slept in my van, temperatures went down to the high 20s. Brrr!

I had plenty of warm clothes. I put on Cuddl Duds leggings, then pulled on flannel pajama pants. On top I wore a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, and the matching flannel pajama shirt. I put warm socks on my feet and a warm hat on my head. I was suited up for winter.

My bed was suited up for winter too. I have a down comforter that I scored for a great price at a Goodwill Clearance Center in Phoenix. (Whoever brought it to the desert learned they didn’t need it.) This comforter often keeps me too warm if the temperature is over 45 degrees, so I knew it would keep me toasty on a freezing night. The only thing I worried about were the long minutes after I slipped into bed and before my body heat warmed up my surroundings. The mattress was going to be cold. The sheets were going to be cold. The comforter was going to be cold.

I harkened back to my days living in the Midwest. I’d seen snow there and temperatures as low as -16 degrees. I lived in a series of poorly insulated homes, and in attempt to save money, never set the thermostat higher than 68 degrees. Nights were cold, even when I dressed warmly and slept under a pile of blankets. To stay warm, especially when I first crawled into my cold bed, I’d take a hot water bottle under the covers with me.

Back in the Midwest, I used a hot water bottle I’d gotten in perfect condition

Silver Kettle over Burner

at a thrift store. I’d bring a pot of water to almost boiling (measured with a candy thermometer which must have come from a thrift store too), then carefully pour the hot water into the red container. I’d slip the hot water bottle into the polar fleece (acquired at the thrift store, of course) cozy I’d hand sewn for it and slide it into my bed to warm things up while I brushed my teeth and washed my face.

In my fifth wheel in the desert, I had no hot water bottle, no candy thermometer, no polar fleece cozy, but I knew a bottle of hot water would make the beginning of each night much more comfortable. I looked around for what I could use. Because of a lid that can be screwed down tight and the thick plastic it’s made from, a Nalgene bottle would have worked great. Alas, all of my Nalgene bottles were in use holding ice in the cooler we used since we had no working refrigerator. I remembered I’d just thrown away an empty plastic bottle cooking oil had come in, so I fished it out of the trash and washed it while my water was heating.

The plastic the bottle was made from was fairly thin, and I didn’t want to melt it, so I only heated the water until it was quite hot to the touch. Then I poured it into the cooking oil bottle and carried it out to the van. I slipped the bottle full of hot water under my comforter, then went back inside to brush my teeth. When I returned to the van, my sleeping area was nice and warm. The water bottle stayed hot for hours and if any part of me (my feet, my butt) got cold, I just moved the bottle to the spot that needed some heat. I was awake using the internet on my phone for a couple of hours, and I was perfectly warm under my comforter with my makeshift hot water bottle next to me.

I slept great that night. If I snored, I never knew. The Man said he slept great too. He got out of bed when he was ready and didn’t have to worry about bothering me. In the nights that followed, we sometimes missed cuddling, but not as much as we would have missed a night of good sleep.

I recommend a hot water bottle for anyone sleeping in a cold climate, whether you sleep in a van, a house, an apartment, or an old RV. Use a bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Make sure the lid is tightly closed before throwing the bottle into your bed. Be careful that the water is not hot enough to melt the plastic of the bottle or burn your skin. If the bottle is too hot to touch, wrap it in a towel, shirt, or other random piece of cloth you have lying around. Depending on the size of your bottle, it may fit in an old (clean!) sock that’s missing its mate.

If you are living in your vehicle and are parking for the night at a truck stop, you can find hot (usually very hot) water with the coffee dispensers. If you don’t feel right about filling up your bottle with hot water without permission, ask the cashier if you can have some and offer to pay.

Please remember that Blaize Sun is not responsible for your safety. You are responsible for yourself! Hot water can be dangerous! Be careful!  Don’t melt your bottle. Don’t spill hot water on yourself. Don’t burn yourself on a hot bottle. Don’t flood your bed. Please, please, please use common sense.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/two-people-laying-on-a-bed-covered-with-a-floral-comforter-1246960/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/blur-branch-close-up-cold-436792/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/antique-burn-burning-close-up-243053/.