Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rainy Days - Part II

During April, I wrote about the onslaught of rain which had arrived in the Midwest. Except for an occasion break, those rains have fairly steadily continued until the present time.

Now, I love rain as much as the next person. It makes things grow and helps the farmers. We all need water to hydrate, bathe and clean items. Water is so important that we even purchase it in plastic bottles for use when we are thirsty and are far from a water fountain or tap.

But enough already.

The weather report for the remainder of this week for many Midwestern states is for -- wait for it -- more rain. In fact, even today's 24-hour forecast calls for an additional one to three inches of rain!

Even if you don't live in a location which is currently under water, you can probably sympathize with those homeowners who are baling water or worse yet, happen to live in a flood plain.

Fortunately, some farmers were astute enough to plant early and their little sprigs of corn are already peeking up through the soil in tidy lines of green. Other farmers have yet to plant because they have been unable to get heavy equipment into the fields due to mud. By now farmers are either hoping that the already-planted crops don't rot from standing water or are chomping at the bit for a dry period. Time's a-wasting, guys. You know, "Knee high by the fourth of July."

I used to work with a woman whose basement flooded each time it rained. Obviously she had some sort of structural/plumbing problem to cause this to occur. But for several years she moaned and whined to anyone within shouting distance about how her Christmas decorations and other items stored in the basement were ruined. It wouldn't take a repeat disaster for most folks to either consult an engineer or put the house on the market during a dry stint and start over elsewhere.

In the Midwest, many homes have basements. Originally, homes had large furnaces for heating which burned coal. When I was little, we lived in such a house. Coal was on the way out by that time with modern alternatives underway. But the furnace and the coal bin took up significant space, necessitating the construction of a basement to hold them. Basements came in mighty handy right from the beginning. They were places to store foods for the winter and a place to huddle during a storm. Our house did not have air conditioning in the 1950s and so the basement was a nice, cool place to spend hot, humid afternoons.

Basements are now often used for laundry and storage. But many folks put things in their basement which they will never use again.

Several years ago, I went with a friend to visit his family in the northern Midwest. They had a large basement filled with boxes. FILLED. The contents included several sets of dinnerware that my friend's mother either found on sale and liked (but didn't need) or discarded sets that had been around for decades. All sorts of items were found there. Childhood games. School projects from decades before. He and I enjoyed inspecting the boxes when it was suggested that perhaps he would like to claim some goodies for his use at home.

He and I were shocked at how much stuff his parents had been kept. Decades worth of old Christmas wreaths, lights, and decorations. There was a tricycle that had been shared among the six children until each outgrew it. Perhaps the long-range goal had been for the tricycle to remain on the property to be ridden by visiting grandchildren. Chances are no one even recalled that the little tricycle was secured in the basement.

There were even boxes of clothing that had been outgrown. Clothing is a different item entirely, picking up the musty smell of the surroundings or being compressed to a wad. Moths tend to avoid basements but that is little consolation when someone else could benefit from wearing the clothing.

The next time that you experience a rainy day or are otherwise discouraged from getting out and enjoying the warm weather, think about all the boxes that you might have filled with "things" you no longer use/wear. Get sorting and be rid of some items. If something has significant meaning, store it where you could retrieve it if you wanted. Otherwise, pitch it out. Have a yard sale. Donate the items to charity. There are plenty of folks who would appreciate them.

Once the cleaning is done, you will have more space to do something productive. Create a quiet space for yourself. A game corner for the kiddies. A blank canvas that can be used for something in the future, should the need arise.

Let's put those rainy days to good use.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Great Movies are Out There

Recently the media has been reporting on the fate of various television programs for the coming season. As the networks analyze which shows to begin, which to renew and which ones will be passed over, it appears as though the viewers are supposed to anguish over these pending executive decisions.

It's all rather pathetic.

I doubt that viewers care very much. Network programming has reached an all time low. With the TV offers up a menu of mostly so-called reality shows, many viewers would rather otherwise occupy themselves. After all, how many episodes of re-hashed garbage can anyone consume?

Fear not. There are a few bright spots being offered, largely consisting of original programming. These are imaginative series, usually offered in short runs of 10 or 15 weeks. These stories bring a breath of fresh air to a stale entertainment venue. My recent favorite among these was a Fox program entitled The Following, which aired from January 21 to April 29, 2013. It starred Kevin Bacon as an FBI agent tracking after and interacting with a serial killer and his devoted followers. The show was occasionally gory, somewhat intense but never boring. However, it wasn't for every viewer. Since the show ended last month, Fox has announced that The Following has been renewed for an additional 15 episodes to air next year.

My heart remains committed to watching movies -- good, entertaining, engrossing, thought-provoking movies.

I have to sing the praises of channels which predominantly show movies. In recent weeks, I have been allowed to enter the world of The Sundance Channel, as the result of a newly available area provider. The films offered on Sundance, and even some original programming, are delightful. Among its schedule, Sundance offers a number of films which may not have had wide distribution or have not made it to general television viewing for one reason or another. For film buffs like me who live a long way from a big city, watching these films is a treat. They are gems that we may have missed but which are well worth our attention.

Among those films recently enjoyed on the Sundance Channel are the following:

Babel (2006) - Starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchette. In a contemporary setting, the director weaves together three various tales from international locations. Intriguing story line, great scenery and a story that will stay with the viewer. A truly remarkable film.

Control (2007) - Starring Sam Riley and Samantha Morton. Set in 1970s Britain, this black and white biopic explores the life and suicide of rocker Ian Curtis of the band Joy Division. Beset by personal, marital and health issues, Ian Curtis committed suicide at age 23, just as his band's future seemed promising. I found the film so compelling that I had to learn more about Curtis' life.

Orlando (1992) - Starring Tilda Swinton and Billy Zane. An epic production with subtle underlying social comment, this film is based on a work by English writer Virginia Woolf and spans four centuries. A rather complex story line explores sexual identity and social structure. It is thought provoking and will leave the viewer reflecting on what happened and why.

Everything is Illuminated (2005) - Starring Elijah Wood. Based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, this story follows a young American's journey to learn more about his family roots in the Ukraine. The story begins with a certain naivete but soon morphs into something far deeper as the journey continues. A truly touching story.

The reason I selected these particular films is that I found them incredibly captivating. Unfortunately the exposure provided when they debuted was less than other films which included drinking and vomiting and car chases. Some of these lesser known films were international productions and may have had restrictions/limitations regarding their release. Some apparently failed to draw the audience. The result is that these movies have been overlooked, to the detriment of the audience.

For any movie fan or anyone who appreciates the "diamonds in the rough" that may have been overlooked, it is reassuring to know that someone like The Sundance Channel is making these gems available for us. If you are looking for an alternative to the programming available on TV, you might consider looking for a provider who offers The Sundance Channel in your area. Or seek out some of these terrific little movies on DVD.

Quality entertainment is worth seeking out.





Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bugs Are A-Coming

The arrival of summer means it's time to establish some ground rules concerning our yards. If we are going to share the space with other life forms, it's important to examine our relationship with nature.

I don't like bugs. Based on the appearance of some critters near my home, I'll admit that not all insects deserve the same amount of respect. In colder weather, I'm willing to let bugs rule the outside territory. People spend little time outdoors, other than to walk, rake or trim. While we are in the process of completing these tasks or merely securing the perimeter, we seldom focus on the creepy-crawlers who reside on our sidewalks and shrubs.

With the arrival of warm days and evenings, it's inevitable that we want to linger in the swing, on the bench or at the table. And that's where the conflict appears. The bugs are already there and believe that WE are the invaders. Silly bugs.

I'm using the term "bug" to include all sorts of flying and crawling invaders into a yard. There are other visitors, of course, including (in my neighborhood, at least) possums, raccoons and squirrels. But these guys and I settled our differences long ago. They are big enough to see coming and don't crawl on my plate or grill. So I allow them to share my space.

My real objection to bugs is that they show up where they are least expected and scurry about to avoid being killed/trapped. I dislike anything that scurries, including mice. Mice are really quite cute. They have little ears and feet and even whiskers. But it's the way they move that is frightening. When they suddenly depart a cupboard or venture across the floor -- well, that's what makes women squeal and raise their feet off the ground. It's to avoid touching something that runs around like it has lost all reason.

Back to insects. During a recent series of allergy tests, the nurse advised me that I tested positive for cockroach dust. After announcing this fact, she smiled and added that most people are in denial that they have ever seen a cockroach. However, she added that cockroach dust is scattered at many locations where food is stored or shipped. Restaurants, warehouses, trucks and such can't help but containing some dust. So if we ever walk through a warehouse store or dine at a restaurant, we have been exposed to cockroach dust. Because we tend to connect cockroaches with unclean conditions, most people would swear their home is roach-free, but that's probably not true.

Public Enemy No. 1 on my bug list is … ants. Not the big, strong ants which haul away crumbs from a picnic blanket, but the teeny-weeny ants that first appear around the kitchen sink. Many people see these guys arriving and try to take them out one at a time by squeezing their little bodies. This is a useless waste of energy. I'm not sure why they come in or how they arrive, but millions of people are greeted by tiny ants with the first signs of warm weather. They like my kitchen with its large sunny windows and will show up along the ledge and into the sink late in the spring. Perhaps they like moisture or they are tracking food odors. But they turn me into a crazy woman until I can stop them. Some folks call the exterminator and others buy commercially available sprays. A couple of years ago, an elderly woman told me that the one sure thing to stop the tiny ants is -- cinnamon. She said to sprinkle it around the window or on the counter to stop the ants. She was right. Sprinkling cinnamon along the window did the trick, although it was a bit messy and generally got in the way. This year I found and purchased cinnamon oil, which has really worked to keep them out. It has a strong odor but what kitchen couldn't benefit from the smell of rolls in the oven? The oil wipes on clear (though a bit sticky) and keeps the ants out.

The yard has plenty of places for other critters to hide and live. Yesterday I watered plants in the front yard and when I came inside, I felt there was something in front of my eyes. I swatted it and knocked a small spider out of my hair! His life, I'm pleased to announce, was quickly ended. But the thought of having a spider in my hair was a bit disturbing.

The presence of bugs in the yard brings birds and butterflies into the mix. Who can object to butterflies? They are beautiful and graceful, despite beginning life as a sort of caterpillar-like creature. The population of birds includes red-headed woodpeckers, finches and robins, along with cardinals and blue jays. Occasionally a more unusual straggler with be found, sending me to the bird book to identify a junco or titmouse. Butterflies and birds are my friends and not only bring color and exotic patterns into my yard, but eat some of those pesky creepy-crawlies.

All in all, the yard is a little community of life forms which dwell near my house. They may not like each other but tolerate each other until one becomes prey and the other acts as predator. It makes for a nice arrangement.

Too bad people have so much trouble living among each other. Seems we could learn a lot from Mother Nature.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Just Around the Corner

Looks like summer has arrived -- or has nearly arrived, varying from one section of the country to another. Summer has always been very special to me.

First, summer meant the end of the school year. The local swimming pool opened on Memorial Day and liberation was in the air. We could wear shorts without appearing strange.

Our family cooked on the grill, a backyard practice that was still in its infancy in the 1950s. Recently I recalled that as early as the 1940s, some homes had outdoor "barbecue" brick stoves used for cooking. These structures usually burned wood and had metal grates suspended above the fire which allowed cooking on metal surfaces. This process was in its infancy at the time. I remember when our family got our first metal grill, a small device with an adjustable grill which cooked over charcoal briquettes. My father cooked a mean burger and we even experimented with an occasional chicken, careful that it didn't get charred.

Then there were other summer treats. Potato salad, watermelon, Popsicles and ice cream. The local Dairy Queen used to close during the winter months. It's re-opening each spring seemed exciting and that first curly-topped cone was so special. How about going to the drive-in to eat? We had an A&W and Dog'N'Suds in our town. What a treat to go somewhere and eat from the car. How about going to the drive-in theatre? Many towns across the country -- including our small town -- had a drive-in theatre where the entire family could watch a movie from the car. Sometimes we would take our own treats to eat during the movie and sometimes we would visit the concession stand. Drive-ins were fun and rather inexpensive. Of course, the weather could be uncomfortably warm and we could hear conversations from neighboring cars. The trick of listening to the dialogue through a tiny speaker hooked on the window was not always easy. But it was a very special event for anyone who had these experiences.

Nearly every summer during the 1950s brought some new fad. These fads were usually must-haves for kids, inexpensive items like Hula Hoops, that we had to possess to be cool. Remember Hula Hoops? Remember those striped beach balls that inflated with a short clear plastic stem that then folded over to seal the ball? How about inflatable plastic swim rings and air mattresses? Your first set of sunglasses? Suntan lotion? Oversized beach towels with funny pictures? How about white canvas "sailor" hats? New sandals or Keds? The latest swimsuit style?

Summer in the 1950s also meant the threat of polio. Wikipedia indicates that "In 1952 and 1953, the U.S. experienced an outbreak of 58,000 and 35,000 polio cases, respectively, up from a typical number of some 20,000 a year." In our little town, there were several children who developed polio and even some who died. I was quite small but a little girl who used to visit neighbors and play with my brother and me contracted polio and died soon afterward. We didn't attend the funeral but a few days later we visited the cemetery to see her headstone. It was a very sobering event and we realized full well that warm weather brought the risk of polio. A few years later, we were all relieved with the arrival of Dr. Salk's vaccine.

Summer in the Midwest also brought the threat of strong storms including tornadoes. Our community has had very few severe storms over the decades, but as the news constantly reflects, storms still occur during the summer -- often quickly and with devastating destruction. I remember taking shelter in our basement, hearing the tornado sirens sound and the relief when the storm had passed. These events remind us of the importance of being prepared for any emergency.

Summer also meant the Fourth of July festivities, parades, fireworks and picnics. Would the fun ever end? Then they began to appear -- the dreaded announcement of Back-to-School sales. Oh no. Summer was going to end! How could we ever return to the boring classroom? What would the new teacher be like?

Oddly enough, as fall neared and we confronted our fate, somehow school began to look enticing. Another year. Fresh challenges. Seeing friends again, perhaps meeting some new people. It might not be so bad after all.

Summer was a rather fleeting experience, just a few weeks of sunshine and frivolity. Then we were on to another year. One experience ended and another would arrive. We knew each segment of life would end and the cycle would repeat. Summer was lovely while it lasted and its memories endure still.

Enjoy your summer.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


A few days ago, I spent several unpleasant hours with a person I know. I couldn't wait to leave. The experience involved no two-way conversation but was rather a chance for this person to vent frustration and unhappiness unchecked by input from anyone else. As I reflected over how awkward the visit had been, it occurred to me that perhaps actual communication between adults has become a thing of the past.

At present, I have few very close friends. I do, however, have a number of acquaintances with whom I have either worked or socialized. However, they hardly qualify as friends.

Perhaps adults today are victims of technology. Modern "communication" has erased the need to face each other. This erosion of human contact began years ago, probably about the time the answering machine arrived. We knew that if we wanted to avoid talking to a particular person, say, a former spouse, we could phone when we knew they would be gone and simply leave a message. Then came emails, to further erode communication. Now people have forgotten entirely how to interact with each other. Many people believe that it is acceptable to merely enclose a typed/photocopied letter with a Christmas card and they have done their part.

Contact with other human beings is all but gone entirely.

When I was a child, a friend was a very special person. Childhood friends were usually other girls. We often had something in common: we both disliked a third individual, we were in the school band or liked to giggle and watch TV. Most people wanted to have or become the "best friend" as opposed to the second-rate friend, I suppose. Best friends were good to have, somehow guaranteeing our worth in the social world. A friend was someone who laughed at your jokes, liked to ride bikes to the same places, made each other feel comfortable as a visitor in their house and were recognized by each other's parents. We were learning to adjust to new surroundings and how to cope with the larger world.

High school friends were better yet. We had grown in independence and were not shy about sharing our opinions. Friends often shared theirs in return. We caught rides to get pizza and rides home from sporting events. These relationships often involved access to and even possession of a vehicle. My friends were still largely girl friends -- classmates who also worked on the school paper or liked to occasionally leave the school grounds for lunch. That was big! But gradually friends began to include boys and dating came to replace hanging out with the girls. Some friendships continued but outside influences were leaving their marks.

College friends were friends of another type. Often these were people who merely shared my space. During my freshman year at college, I lived in a dorm. It was natural to become friends with girls who shared space on the same floor. We might run into each other on campus, have lunch, walk to class or hang-out. But we weren't really friends. Being away from home and in a new environment forged pseudo-friendships. We had nothing in common other than our shared quarters, a little like shipmates taking a Caribbean cruise. As long as we were stuck without any other contact, we might as well chat and make the best of it.

When I got married, my husband's friends became my friends. I kept in touch with some people I had known before, but most of those girls were either married or moved on with their lives. My husband's family was key to him and its members looked to him as the chief male figure. As a result, we mostly socialized with his circle of acquaintances. I don't know whether this is a typical result of marriage, but it seemed a natural progression in my friends' lives. This was during in the 1960s and perhaps things have changed greatly since. But we socialized with "couples" finding restaurants we liked, cooking dinner for each other and going to football games together. There was rarely an odd number of people included, but occasionally someone would be included who was alone. Those of us who were part of a couple often felt sorry for the "odd" attendee and would work hard to include him/her in the conversation, the poor little thing.

Even friendships among couples were reshuffled again with the arrival of kids. Couples who had careers did not seek out or even appreciate couples whose activities were controlled by babysitters and diaper changes. My husband and I did not have children, so it seemed natural that once friends like Ted and Tina had welcomed children, our circle of conversation and activities together would end.

The term "friend" has meant different things to different people at different times. When I think of friends now, I think of people who are even marginally fascinating, can carry on a conversation about something of mutual interest, who have ideas worth considering and ask for input in return.

Friends should listen to each other. It's called communicating. But people no longer do that. The world is consumed with text messages and partial sentences. It might be good to start talking to each other again, to share information and learn to listen to each other.

How refreshing that would be.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Things I Never Do

Recently I saw a photo of actress Cloris Leachman and recalled her 1970s television show. It was entitled "Phyllis" and was a spin-off of her Phyllis character from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." The show centered around Phyllis and her extended television family.

The cast was great and the entire show quite funny. But I began watching because of a character named Mother Dexter, portrayed by elderly actress Judith Lowry. Mother Dexter was the mother of Phyllis' father-in-law. In reality, Judith Lowry was in her mid-to-late 80s and actually passed away during the second season.

Mother Dexter's character was the first depiction that I ever recall of a feisty elderly woman. During the 1970s, older women usually weren't portrayed in TV or movies. If there was an elderly woman in the cast, she was typically shown as a quiet, shawl-wearing woman who cooked chicken soup and knitted by the fire.

"Phyllis" was different. Mother Dexter was fresh, opinionated, daring and hilarious as a result. I recall one episode where she expressed some outrageous opinion and drew shocked reactions in return. She then uttered some wonderful line to the effect of "I've waited my entire life to be able to speak my mind." It impressed me greatly and I never forgot the punch of that philosophy.

Most people are afraid of saying and doing the wrong thing. In this age of painful political correctness, we all have to analyze ideas before expressing them. We wouldn't want to say or do something that could be considered un-"PC." Every day we hear about some sports figure or political star who happened to utter a phrase when they thought the nearest microphone was turned off or perhaps spoke in haste. The wrong words were uttered and the speaker left to apologize or assure his/her fans that he/she would never exhibit such behavior again.

Well, like Mother Dexter, I'm weary of tippy-toeing around to avoid offending anyone. At a certain age, we ought to be allowed to relax just a tad. I don't mean being overly rude or cruel to others. But we should be allowed to let our hair down a bit and try to relax. It doesn't look like our present day society values humor, but we should be able to speak our minds, within limits.

And so, I have compiled a short list of things which I no longer will do. Enough already. These include the following:

Hold for robocalls
If some boiler room telemarketing organization has me on it's list, I'm liable to receive calls any time of the day. A few days ago, the phone rang at 2:00 a.m. It was a robocall. I automatically (and foolishly) answered the phone and then had trouble going back to sleep. This will not happen again.

Stand in line to pay for something (except groceries)
Standing in line is part of living and occasionally we have to play along. I have stood in line to get into a concert or movie. I have stood in line to get my car serviced despite having an appointment. But I refuse to stand in line to give away my money. In a large nearby city during an after-Christmas sale, I was standing in line to buy an item for myself. I stood in line for a l-o-n-g time but the line was not moving. Finally, the stupidity of the moment dawned on me and I placed the item on a nearby counter and walked out of the store. This will not happen again.

Return to a restaurant/hairstylist/business where I had bad service
Remember that old saying about "You don't have a second chance to make a first impression"? Too true. There are plenty of services provided to the public that require effort on part of the service provider. I have walked out of restaurants where I sat holding a menu for a significant period of time. A new restaurant has one shot at making me want to return. A hairstylist who chops my hair and charges me too much to do so will not see me again. The public should vote with its feet. If you don't like a place, don't go back even if your friends rave about the service. Perhaps your friends do not want to admit they were taken in by the business. It's a sort of ego thing.

Spend extra time talking to/listening to people I seriously dislike
Life is too short to waste conversing with people I seriously dislike. That's one of the greatest gifts of retirement: the ended conversation. No longer am I required to listen to the vacant observations of others merely because they have a cubicle adjoining mine.

Consider maturing to be a sort of game. Learn the rules and have fun with it. If not now, when?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Most of us appreciate someone or something which inspires us in some way. It might be inspiration to begin or complete a task, to make an effort to exercise or improve our health, to tidy up our houses or enrich our lives in some other way. Often inspiration comes in the form of motivation, an exterior force which compels results.

Inspiration is where we find it.

Recently I was pondering what it is that inspires/motivates us and happened upon some interesting remarks on the subject. There was a surprising amount of discussion on the subject from minds far wiser than mine. Apparently I wasn't the first person to examine the subject of inspiration.

The following includes a sampling of the wisdom I discovered. Some of these observations are truly inspirational:

"Do one thing every day that scares you." - Eleanor Roosevelt

"The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all." - Walt Disney

"The unexamined life is not worth living." - Socrates

"It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it." - Lou Holtz

"If you're reading this…Congratulations. You're alive. If that's not something to smile about, then I don't know what is." - Chad Suggs

"Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you." - Thomas Jefferson

"To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer." - Mahatma Gandhi

"One must maintain a little bittle of summer, even in the middle of winter." - Henry David Thoreau

"When all is said and done, more is said than done." - Lou Holtz

"It's hard to beat a person who never gives us." - Babe Ruth

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." - Jack London

"Risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing." - Leo Buscaglia

"Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while your climbing it." - Andy Rooney

"Take it easy, but take it." - Woody Guthrie

"When you're at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on." - Theodore Roosevelt

"Ideas come from everything." - Alfred Hitchcock

"Talent is a wonderful thing, but it won't carry a quitter." - Stephen King

"We are wiser than we know." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

And, my personal favorite:
"The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did
at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life." - Muhammed Ali

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Time for a Check-Up

Two random events which occurred during the past week struck me as being quite similar. My annual visit with my doctor required the usual exams and blood work. In an unrelated matter, I also test drove a car.

It dawned on me there is a strong similarity between our bodies and our vehicles.

Each structure is housed inside a container, of sorts. When each structure is new, we take great care not to damage it. Every car owner frets over the inevitable first scratch on the shiny, new paint. When my current car was still new, I gently bumped my driver's side fender against a cement parking bollard. It was a glancing blow at best, but crinkled the fender just enough to make me lose sleep. I was ruined. I had betrayed the trust of my new car. Actually, the damage was minimal, too insignificant to repair. The crinkle remains visible, of course, a tiny reminder that perfect doesn't last forever.

Likewise, new mothers worry about their baby's exterior container. She tries to prevent the baby experiencing the horror of skin irritation or blemish of any sort. With each outburst and whimper, mom believes that she is overlooking the obvious cause, ruining her child in the process. As time passes, the new mom's concerns lessen. She learns to relax. Baby learns to crawl, stand and walk with little damage. Mom has hope that both players may survive.

As both types of containers age, certain parts may require attention.

The tread on the tires may wear thin and need to be replaced. It might be time to visit the mechanic if the car develops a shimmy. If walking becomes awkward or uncomfortable, it might be time for the human to visit the podiatrist. Comfortable shoes with good insoles might do the trick. Traction is an important part of getting around and is vital to maintaining control of all containers.

Aging might also interfere with container performance.

The engine may falter and require a minor tune-up. Anyone who has driven for a while knows that a tiny noise is easier to repair than a big noise -- and is less costly, too. Also, human containers have hearts which might need a tune-up. A doctor once told me that our bodies talk to us constantly; the trick is learning to listen for the signals. Human containers may need to visit the doctor occasionally to achieve better results. That way the vehicle and driver can both get back on the road with a simple adjustment.

The exterior condition of the container also warrants attention.

As people age, they need to ramp-up their grooming efforts, removing hair that grows where it is not wanted and becoming vigilant about their overall appearance. It's always advisable to keep weight under control to look and feel better. Keep in mind that it is common for mature people to stop caring about their appearance. Remember: Make an effort.

Just because the car is accumulating miles doesn't mean that its condition should be ignored. Take the car out for a spin once in a while. Even if you don't drive far every day, start that engine and rev it up. Take short trips and show it that you care. Keep your container in good condition, whether it is your body or the vehicle you drive.

What really matters is the type of fuel we use in the container.

Eating is important, of course, but eating well is even more important. Downing a burger and fries on the run is not the best idea. Try sitting down to relax over a meal of fruit and veggies. We all KNOW that we should watch what we eat. Whether we heed that information is another thing entirely. But as you pull into the drive-thru lane at Fast Food City, think what would happen if you poured rubbing alcohol into the tank of your favorite car? Wouldn't it be a better idea to hold off adding fuel until you can find a nice station with an ample supply of your car's octane choice?

Unfortunately, most people treat their vehicles better than they treat their bodies. They are willing to forego seeing a doctor or fueling their body with the proper food. But the car must be washed and tucked away in the garage for safe keeping, no matter what. That's a shame.

In the long run, this may be a priority choice we regret making.