October 7, 2015 by Karin Fuller


Just-Because-Youre-Offended-Doesnt-Mean-Youre-RightSo often, when sitting down to write a column, I’ll be all charged up by an idea.

And then find myself abandoning one line or approach after another because it might offend someone. Most writers–at least most of the writers I respect—don’t do that. They write unapologetically, without fear of stepping on toes.

I avoid conflict, and I avoid it in a way that’s probably not entirely healthy. Not just in my writing life, but in most every corner. Somehow over the years, I’ve developed this stifling fear of upsetting others to the point where I’ll carefully rearrange and rephrase and stay quiet in order to avoid making waves.

These days, the offended have so many platforms for spouting their outrage while we, the meek, are constantly searching for ways around potential conflicts. Sometimes, though, we the meek are also searching for crockpot bean recipes. Once in a great while, when the planets align just right, we find both in the same place.

Considering the part beans can play in Things Some Find Offensive, it shouldn’t have come as a total surprise for there to be a discussion about being offended intermingling with beans, yet in this instance, one had nothing to do with the other.

The discussion I’m referring to was on a website called Christy Jordan’s Southern Plate. Her discourse about being offended (that led into the bean recipe) was a little like the opening credits that run before a TV show. She was giving readers a taste of who she is prior to getting to why they were there (the beans).

Her website is a goldmine of recipes and conversation. As I read her piece about the easily offended, I found myself copying several of Christy’s adages for my ever-growing collection.

Among her rules for not being offended:

“Don’t take a paper cut and turn it into a sword wound.”

“When you assume the best in someone and they disappoint you, it is a reflection on who THEY are. When you assume the worst of someone, regardless of how they behave, it is a reflection on who YOU are.”

“Folks who complain about always having their toes stepped on need to look at how far out they’re sticking their feet.”

She shared one of her aunt’s favorite sayings, one that originated from Dolly Party, “Get down off the cross, honey. Somebody needs the wood.”

Which is a quote I probably wouldn’t have previously shared for fear of offending, but it’s a new leaf, people. I’m turning it over.

I know a woman who seems to exist in a constant state of outrage. The people who drive in front of her, who pass her, who park next to her—they’re unfailingly inept. Most every waitress, cashier, teller and teacher is incompetent. Politicians send her into a tizzy and parents are loathsome, as most every child she encounters is unfit for public presentation.

If there was a prize for Most Offended, she’d have a case full of trophies. But she’s also one of the unhappiest people I know, and one of the loneliest.

I know another woman, Diane, who lets it all roll off her back. She looks at least a decade younger than her age. Has a bounty of friends.

“What’s the point of being upset all day long? Does that change anything or make you feel better?” wrote Diane. “Allowing someone else’s actions or opinions to affect you is giving them your power.”

And adjusting every word out of your mouth, or from your fingertips, so that it doesn’t offend gives up your power as well.


September 27, 2015 by Karin Fuller


Although I’m fairly new at golf and not very good, I still love to play. Occasionally, I’ll complain when I have a particularly bad hole. We weren’t too far into our game this past weekend when I grumbled about my score for the hole.

“So do you know what a 6 isn’t?” Didier asked.

“No,” I said.

“It isn’t a 7.”

He was right. And it was exactly what I needed to hear. No matter how bad I was playing, it could have (and has) been far worse. What was interesting was as soon as he said that to me, my attitude changed, as did my game. Something lifted or lessened. I had more fun playing the remaining holes than I’d had at the start, when I’d been beating myself up for each whiff, top, slice, and chunk.

While I’ve long believed that having an attitude of gratitude makes life sweeter, I didn’t know until recently that there’s actual physiological reasoning behind how that works.

According to UCLA neuroscience researcher Alex Korb, author of The Upward Spiral, scientific studies have shown being grateful affects the brain at a biological level because it activates the brain stem area that produces serotonin, an antidepressant.

A person doesn’t even have to actually FIND something specific to be grateful for. Just the act of trying triggers that part of the brain.

Wrote Korb in his book, “Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of your life. This simple act increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex.”

Even though I had to reach a bit to find something to be grateful about—that I’d shot a 6 instead of a 7—just the act of looking got my brain to treat me to a little shot of serotonin.

“It’s not finding gratitude that matters most; it’s remembering to look in the first place,” wrote Korb. “Remembering to be grateful is a form of emotional intelligence. One study found that it actually affected neuron density in both the ventromedial and lateral prefrontal cortex. These density changes suggest that as emotional intelligence increases, the neurons in these areas become more efficient. With higher emotional intelligence, it simply takes less effort to be grateful.”

Attaining a grateful attitude isn’t difficult for me, but maintaining it is. It often feels as though the moment I get my feet back under me, someone tugs again at my rug. A friend said life is going to keep doing this to me until I truly learn the lesson it’s trying to teach. I can grasp the concept briefly, yet have trouble keeping hold.

Less than a day after having my eyes opened with Didier’s “It isn’t a 7” line, I was revisiting the Land of Grumbledom because I couldn’t sleep and was up before dawn. The dog was bouncing off the walls, so as soon as it was light out, I took him to the park and we started walking the trails. I was tired and grumpy and his retractable leash refused to retract, so it was like walking a Macy’s Parade balloon through a tornado. Ash would lunge left and race right and catch a scent that mandated an instantaneous reversal so he could inspect.

We were at the farthest part of the trail when he startled a grasshopper. It sprang. Ash sprang after it. Except his long legs tangled in each other and he somersaulted onto the path. He looked up at me with this amused “Did you catch that?” expression. I grabbed my camera and tried to record his look, but he’d reassembled his dignity and I missed the shot.

raySince the camera was out, I began snapping pictures. The sunrise through the trees. Dew on a mushroom. Park benches tinted with moss. By the time we made it back out to the car, I’d decided to take another lap.

I was no longer grumpy or tired or stressed. Instead of being annoyed over being up so early on a Sunday, I felt grateful not to have missed all that I saw and smelled and felt on our walk.

It could’ve been a 6. But it was a 10.







September 21, 2015 by Karin Fuller


ash bed 1Just last month, I wrote proudly about the intelligence of Ash, my daughter’s new pup. I’d been inspired because I’d been making the bed with Ash observing me flip the bedding into the air, then adjust it down over the bed. Bottom sheet, top sheet, blanket. By the time I reached the comforter, Ash had the process figured out. He decided to help by grabbing the corner opposite me and tugging it down over the edge, which he then released. As though he’d been making beds for years.

I’d never had a dog help with housework before. The possibilities had me euphoric. This Disney dog was going to be dusting and carrying groceries and sewing me a gown for the ball.

But I believe I can safely say now that the bed-making was a single occurrence. A fluke.

In the weeks since then, I’ve made the bed with Ash rolling under the covers, stealing pillows, uncasing pillows, and depantsing the bedmaker. This very morning, moments after I made the bed and headed downstairs, the comforter passed me going down the hall at an impressive speed.

Superman has a canine counterpart. Who dons a down-alternative cape.

I’m enjoying the process of getting to know Ash and his many quirks. He’s an interesting dog. For instance, he doesn’t just make a deposit in the yard, he dances it out. And he doesn’t stand in the kitchen, quietly eating his Kibble, but rather fills his mouth and carries it wherever we are so he doesn’t have to eat alone.

He has a way of charming, or at least attempting to charm, even the most uninterested or anti-social dogs.

ash and duckAnd he has to, at all times, be surrounded by toys.

For the past few years, I thought I’d been converted into being a cat person, mostly because they’re such convenient pets. With cats, there’s no rushing home from work to let them out, like with dogs, and they can be left alone for a weekend instead of boarded, if need be.

Plus there’s something about having a cat like you that’s so much more of a compliment than when a dog seeks your attention. With dogs, it’s expected. With cats, it’s high praise. The entire feline species is known for being finicky and disinterested snobs, so to have one grace your lap is a flattering endorsement.

Our cats have always been good about greeting me at the door when I return home from work, but they go straight from the door to their food dish. Ash, on the other hand, will ambitiously greet me for as long as I’ll allow without once asking to be compensated for his affection.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever met anyone besides vet techs because of our cats, but in the few months we’ve had Ash, I’ve met dozens of people. Dogs are proven catalysts for interacting with others, with studies showing that walking around with a dog leads to more social interactions than walking alone.

According to the Milk Bone Human-Canine Health Study of 3,000 dog owners, 55 percent of those who own dogs describe their lives as being “full of happiness and joy,” as compared with only 39 percent of non-dog owners.

I do know that since getting a dog, there seem to be more hours in the day. Probably because there’s no sleeping in. I’ve also noticed that I’m eating less. (Sharing more.) I’m outside more, walking more, meeting more people, buying more shoes.

And looking oddly forward to making the bed.


September 16, 2015 by Karin Fuller

showerI was talking with one of my daughter’s friends last week when he mentioned the kinds of creative thoughts he has after being disconnected from technology for even a short while. He said the world is so noisy he sometimes has to unplug so his brain can rest.

It’s a feeling familiar to me. There’s so much clutter and commotion, so many funny YouTube videos and interesting articles and clever Pinterest ideas to explore it’s not unusual for me to drop through that black hole for ages. And judging from the friends I’ve talked with about this, it seems more the norm than the exception for us to drive with music blaring from here to there, and then many of us work and work out and walk with headsets on, our own thoughts drowned out by someone else’s. We have the computer running, the smart phone in hand, the television blaring in the background. We’re exhausting our brains, which believe it or not, needs quiet to do its best work.

Research indicates people are most likely to have creative epiphanies when doing a monotonous type of activity, like jogging or showering, since we’re on autopilot when we do the routine. And when we do these things without the influence of auditory stimulation, like headsets, the mind is most fully able to wander, allowing the brain to relax and create.

I’ll spare you the scientific details about the research conducted by the journal Thinking and Reasoning, but it basically said the ideas we have while doing something like showering will be completely different than the ideas we come up with while we’re at work. Work Brain tends to be more close-minded and focused, while Shower Brain is uncensored and unconventional.

The study found that since most of us shower in the morning or at night, when we’re most tired, the groggy fog weakens the brain’s censors, keeping us from “blocking the irrelevant, distracting thoughts that make great ideas possible.”

But it was while further researching the term Shower Brain that I was then tossed completely off track, as it landed me on a web page where people share random thoughts that have occurred while they showered.

For instance, the first thing I read was, “Head and Shoulders should make a body wash called Knees and Toes.”

In that instant, I was hooked. I went shiny. Kept reading.

“Cheerios are like really small, really stale bagels.”

“In order to fall asleep, you have to pretend to be asleep.”

“Gyms should offer a membership package where you pay for every day you don’t go.”

“Scooby-Doo taught us that the real monsters always turn out to be humans.”

“Since smart watches can now read your pulse, there should be a feature that erases your browser history if your heart stops beating.”

“Spilling a beer is the adult equivalent to losing a balloon.”

“According to the Monkeys’ theme song, the only thing preventing them from putting people down was their hectic schedule.”

“Clapping is just hitting yourself because you like something.”

“Going to college just so you can party is like paying $40,000 for a steak with a side of potatoes, and then only eating the potatoes.”

“Ticks should be called Land Leeches.”

It wasn’t until I’d perused the last of the lists that I was able to pry myself away and get back to the business of researching my subject. Except by then, my thoughts were muddied and my eyes had begun to glaze over.

And it was time to disconnect and recharge my brain.


September 16, 2015 by Karin Fuller

The headline caught my eye.

“A third of Americans don’t know their neighbors.”

That number struck me as unreasonably high and I was drawn into reading the article–likely since I was at that very moment digesting a burger I’d eaten at the home of my next door neighbor.

Basically, the story was about City Observatory’s research that indicated how we, as a society, know far fewer of our neighbors than we did as recently as the 1970s. Researchers blame social media, claiming it’s easier now to keep in touch with our loved ones who live far away, so we spend our time nurturing those relationships rather than starting new. Comments in the section following the article were lamenting the loss, and it got me waxing nostalgic about places I’ve lived and those who have lived around me.

As neighbors go, I’ve been lucky. My new favorite neighbor loves our dog, fills my belly with burgers, and viewed my sneaking a fake leg into her cooler as a challenge rather than a sign I might be disturbed.

I’ve had other neighbors who have been equally cool.

Years back, just days after we’d moved to South Charleston, our big, shaggy dog managed to sneak out through a door we hadn’t yet realized was broken. He embraced his newfound freedom by exploring the neighborhood until he happened across a woman emptying flats of flowers from her car. He was more interested in the car than in her and since she’d left her car’s door hanging open, our ride-mooching pooch hopped in and sat in the passenger sit.

His gamble paid off and she took him for a ride, a few laps around the circle, before driving him back to our house. Which was how we met our first neighbor there, and through her, many more.

Before South Charleston, I’d spent about a decade in Poca. I hadn’t lived there long when I endeavored to dig out an overgrown shrub in the front yard, but the deeper I dug, the larger the root seemed to get. It turned into a Me versus Bush kind of thing. Before long, I’d removed so much dirt and chopped so hard at the root that it attracted the attention (and sympathy) of several neighbors, whom I hadn’t yet met. Soon, it was an Us versus Bush kind of thing. There was chopping and digging and chains and a truck. And by the time we were done, I was part of the neighborhood.

Over the years, we became close. Our kids, and sometimes our pets, traveled from next door to across the street to catty-cornered. We shared leftovers and Christmas candy and Halloween costume parts. We got angry over the same neighborhood injustices, coordinated how much the Tooth Fairy was paying, and helped keep track of who was currently housing our shared wet vac.

And then one moved closer to her parents, one left the state, another took a job near their daughter. We moved to South Charleston, and then moved again.

Didier was already friends with most everyone in his little community of maybe a dozen townhouses when Celeste and I joined him, so it was different this time around. He’d already long since broken the ice.

I love how the homes all face into each other around a little cul-de-sac, and how every now and then, the neighbors will join forces to take on tasks like trimming branches or clearing drains or repainting our sign. On the last occasion, it started pouring rain while we were out cleaning up around the pond, but we were having too much fun to let that to shut us down. Later, one of the neighbors who wasn’t physically able to labor went and picked up pizzas for us, and another neighbor brought over a pitcher of sangria, and we all sat in one of the driveways and ate and talked for a while.

And now, just after I was starting to feel part of somethin
g so nicely established, a For Sale sign showed up in the yard across from us. Two others have announced they’ll soon be moving as well.

I worry their replacements might be part of that third of Americans who aren’t interested in knowing their neighbors, although thankfully, the odds are still two-thirds heavy they won’t.

There’s an old saying about good fences making good neighbors, but I don’t agree. It’s sharing leftovers and wet vacs that does it. Knowing the names of their dogs.

And a pitcher or two of sangria.



September 16, 2015 by Karin Fuller

ducksAbout 20 feet from where I sat down on my deck to write, a pair of ducks were chowing down on bird seed scattered on the ground. Watching them eat, I thought about that mallard-related description, “being nibbled to death by ducks,” and realized it perfectly describes how I’ve been feeling lately—nibbled on.

For a while now it’s felt as though bits of me have been getting gobbled in random, rounded-edge bites. Not anything major, just those routine kinds of things. Before my car’s new tires were paid for the cat got sick. Before the vet bill was paid for, the brakes needed replaced. Before the brakes were paid for, the furnace went out. Before the furnace was paid for, there was a bout of pink eye and a kid-related expense and a throbbing tooth and another sick cat.

For every inch forward I manage to get, I’m ankle-dragged backward a foot. It has me wishing I could pause the treadmill long enough to just catch my breath.

Don’t get me wrong–I love my life, duck-bites and all. I feel ashamed for complaining when there are people who would gladly trade the least of their bads for my very worst. I get that. I do. And yet this relentless duck nibbling starts up and gets me flip-flopping between being grateful and then feeling picked on, and then trying to force myself into feeling grateful again.

One of my best friends, Pam Hanson, and I have an arrangement where we allow each other to swap complaints without judgment, recognizing that sometimes a person needs nothing more than to vent. Even though there’s nothing she can do about the hours I waste in traffic delays on Interstate 64, she’s there when I need to let off some steam. And although there’s nothing I can do to get a contractor to actually show up at her house 1,077 miles away from here, she says it eases her stress just to be able to gripe.

Occasionally, Pam or I will make the mistake of venting to someone who isn’t part of our grumble pact, and we’ll invariably be scolded.

At least you have a car to get to work,” they might say.

“At least you have a job.”

“At least you have a house for a contractor not to show up to work on.”

By that line of reasoning, though, saying we shouldn’t be sad become someone has it worse would also mean we shouldn’t be happy because others have it better.

I’m not buying that.  Pam isn’t either.

I’m generally one of the happiest people you’ll meet—so long as you don’t meet me right after I’ve spent two hours driving what should’ve taken 20 minutes to travel (for the third time in a week). Or after I’ve come home and discovered two sick cats had apparently been chasing each other at high speeds through every room of the house. A week after we’d shampooed our carpets.

Most of the time, though, I walk around feeling blessed. I just don’t get to walk very far before I encounter more ducks.

There seem to be more than usual lately, and I’m finding that, along with whining to Pam, it helps to spend time outdoors, especially if there’s something mindless to watch, like water or animals.

In the past, refinishing furniture was one of my favorite de-stressers. There’s something about stripping off paint and then sanding the wood that can get me in a zone where my mind simply rests. The only focus is removing the paint, smoothing the wood.

I’ve found that exercise helps too. Some friends who are runners frequently describe finding peace when they run, and I’ve experienced the calm that comes from riding a bike.

But often, the ducks will descend when circumstances don’t allow for going outdoors or riding a bike or sanding some wood, and that’s when I call Pam. Or when she calls me. And we’ll rant about whatever or whoever is driving us nuts.

Sometimes, we’ll offer advice or suggest a distraction, but mostly, we just listen. And occasionally remind each other that prison beige and jailhouse orange aren’t good colors for us.

Even though those ducks might like to land on our heads, we’ve promised each other–we won’t let them nest.


August 23, 2015 by Karin Fuller

It’s bugging me not to know.  I suppose I could knock on the door and ask, but that would be weird. Like sticking a leg in her cooler wasn’t bizarre. It’s asking that’s strange.

The leg in question was rubber, and it was a spare. It’s a little difficult to explain how one comes about having spare rubber limbs in their house, but over the years, we’ve had many. The prevalence of Halloween superstores now makes fake body parts easy to acquire, but my history with them goes back to the days when the late great James Dent still roamed the halls of the Gazette.

While cleaning his office, Dent found a realistic-looking rubber leg, which he gave to my boss, who gave it to me. The leg was fantastic with realistic-looking, bendable toes and a heft that seemed about the same as what an actual half-leg might be.

It made many appearances over the years. Its toes barely peeking out under the curtains or a bed. Trapped under the garage door. Partially wedged in the mower. Hidden in luggage.

A friend who house-sat our pets was digging a cup of Purina from the bin of dry food when she came across toes. Said the friend, “I’d seen that damn foot so many times by then that I didn’t even jump.”

Clearly, the foot needed a rest. We packed it away and forgot about it for the last year or two, until Didier’s kids were visiting over the summer.

It was late and everyone was watching a horror movie when Celeste and I took the pup outside for his final romp of the night. We came back in through the garage, which is where the leg has been living, tucked deep in a cabinet.

2015-07-08 12.03.56“Hold up a second,” I said to Celeste as I dug out our much beloved leg.

Which I gave to the pup.

Who raced happily inside with it, right in the middle of where the kids were watching their scary movie.

Their reaction reminded me a little of when a neighbor boy came to our house when Celeste and I still lived in Poca. Back then, we had a fairly large collection of body parts randomly lying about, including a hand. The hand’s nails had been polished and it was wearing a few bandaids and a bit of Mercurochrome, so it looked a little more realistic than it had when it was fresh from the store. Somehow, that hand ended up on top of a cabinet in our family room.

My daughter and some friends were in the family room with this new kid. He was a big, burly boy about 10 years old, and he happened to leap onto our ping-pong table just as I walked in the room.

“Hey!” I said—and then, in one of those ponderous parenting moments I’ll never quite understand—rather than asking him to get off the table, I grabbed the fake hand and said, “This is all that’s left of the last kid who did that.”

He jumped down and backed slowly out of my house, never taking his eyes off me for an instant. He seemed like a fairly tough kid with a decent sense of humor, so I didn’t really give it much thought until a few weeks later. When the flower pot incident occurred.

Back then, our collection included a sticky finger that was meant to be tossed up onto the ceiling, where it would cling for a while and then drop on some poor, unsuspecting person who happened to pass underneath. At some point, the finger likely fell into one of my houseplants and remained there, unnoticed, until summer came and I carried my plants to the deck for some sun. From there, rain likely loosened the finger’s grip and it fell to the ground.

Where it remained until that same boy’s errant baseball rolled down the hill and landed directly beside it.

I’ve been told he’s in college now, studying forensics. I can’t help but wonder if we didn’t have something to do with that choice.

We live in a different neighborhood now, with a fresh batch of unsuspecting neighbors. And a brand new one next door. One who returned from a trip and left her big Igloo cooler sitting by her driveway, propped open, to dry.

And there, it attracted a leg.

I heard no screams. Saw no flashing blue lights.

So I’m guessing she’s cool.



August 18, 2015 by Karin Fuller

toysOur house had been sans canine (though not feline) for nearly two years when my daughter initiated negotiations that resulted in its new altered state, with chew bones and squeak toys aplenty.

Although I’d deeply loved our last dogs, they were terriers, a breed whose hard-headedness and excessive energy appear far higher on the traits list than intelligence.

Growing up, we had German shepherds or shepherd mixes. I continued along that vein myself for years, until my ex’s dog allergy mandated a hypoallergenic breed, thus the terriers. I quickly learned that going from a German shepherd to a terrier is probably like going from a Ferrari to a Nova. There might be similarities of the most general sense, but it’s a whole different ride.

Celeste’s new pup, Ash, is a mix. His coloration and brains suggest German shepherd. His long and gangly legs hint at grasshopper. Much of the time, his back half travels far faster than his front, and it’s fun to throw a ball for him and watch as his tail-end as it starts to gain on the forward half, and then take the lead.

Although uncoordinated, Ash is intelligent to the point where he occasionally leaves me feeling a little unnerved. Last weekend, he followed me into the bedroom and stood nearby as I stripped the bed and put on fresh bedding. He watched as I snapped open the top sheet, which I lofted briefly into the air before it settled in place on the bed. He watched as I did the same with the blanket—first into the air, and then tugging it down into place.

happy ashSo when it came time for me to do the final piece, Ash was ready. I flipped our puffy comforter up and then let it drift down, where it settled about halfway down the bed. I’d just grabbed the corner nearest me to pull down when Ash stood on his hind legs and grabbed the opposite corner in his teeth. At the same time as me, he tugged it down over the edge of the bed.

“What the heck are you? Some weird Disney creation?” I asked. “Cause if you and the other woodland creatures are gonna start making me a gown for the Ball, the curtains in Celeste’s room are a more flattering color.”

(The suggestion wasn’t mean as an insult to his intelligence. Just taking into consideration a dog’s issues with colors.)

I’m enjoying having a dog as smart as Ash seems to be. From the first day Celeste brought him home, he’s grasped the boundaries of our yard in a way that makes it appear we have an invisible fence. Housebreaking happened almost overnight, and Ash now rings a bell that hangs on our door when he’d like to go out—a privilege he abuses to an obnoxious degree. When he wants back inside, he stands and turns the knob himself (easily do-able since it’s shaped like a sideways S and opens inward).

A recent visitor standing near our door was surprised by the pup letting himself in.

“You should teach him to shut the door,” said our guest.

Ash immediately used his butt to whap the door closed in a way that was so practiced looking it appeared deliberate. I pretended Ash does that all the time. He doesn’t.

Unfortunately, Ash’s intelligence has a boundary. It ends just shy of his water bowl.

Over the years, I’ve had dogs that liked to cram their mouth full of kibble and then trot off with it into the next room to eat there. The pup tries to do this with water.

It’s become routine to see Ash stand at his dish, tidily munching his chow. He then polishes off his meal with a bowl-emptying long slurp of water. Which he seems certain will taste better in the living room.

I used to occasionally wonder by what means I might one day leave this earth. I’m now fairly certain it will involve something to do with our kitchen floor doubling as an ice skating rink.

He mostly a smart Ash, but sometimes, he’s a pain.




August 10, 2015 by Karin Fuller

I’d settled down with my laptop, preparing to write on a semi-serious subject, but Didier’s laughter kept drifting upstairs and sneaking under my door.

It’s a great laugh. Genuine. Frequent. It spills out of him easily and comes looking for me, likely aware it’s a favorite sound.

I glanced at the clock and knew the source for his laughter—Seinfeld reruns on TBS. We’re creatures of habit, he and I. Doesn’t matter that we’ve seen every episode to the point where we can do chunks of dialogue verbatim (him far better than me). Doesn’t matter if the episode they’re airing is the same as the day before. Doesn’t matter that we have all the seasons on DVD that we could watch commercial free if we chose. If it’s on, it’s on.

Often, we have the show playing in the background as we do other things. The familiar voices in familiar settings saying familiar things. It’s the auditory equivalent of comfort foods. Like hearing grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Although Seinfeld ended its nine year run 17 years ago, back in 1998, it’s been airing in syndication since 2002–giving us plenty of opportunities to memorize random lines and work bits from the character’s lives into our own.

For instance, if we see someone wearing a puffy jacket, one of us will ask the other, “Is that Gore-Tex?”

Walking around Home Depot almost inevitably prompts a suggestion for putting in levels. Making a special request or asking a silly questions is answered with, “No soup for you!” Stress one of us out and we’re likely to bark, “Serenity now!”

People can either be sponge worthy or breathtaking.

We celebrate Festivus. Suffer from Jimmy legs.

I’ve found fandom brings with it some shortcuts to forming friendships. For instance, I brought a pillow to work to balance out a desk seat that tipped forward. I got the chair fixed, but the pillow remained behind my desk. A coworker spotted it and immediately started calling me George. I knew in an instant she was gold, Jerry. Gold.

Admittedly, we watch too much TV. The bitter cold winter and endless rain earlier this summer had us hunkered indoors, binge-watching one series after another. We finished every episode of The Office and then switched over to Breaking Bad, interspersed with Sons of Anarchy, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones, often getting so immersed in whatever show we were watching at night that random lines will drift over into our day.

Try to pick up a check and it would get snatched away because, “A Lannister always pays his debts!”

Walk into a room and forget what you’re there for and it’s, “Where’s Carl?”

Don’t like what someone’s said? You tell them to “Just look at the flowers.”

I thought this particular peculiarity was only a thing in our house until one of my coworkers smoothly used a line from <I>The Office<P> in conversation. When I asked about it, she said it’s something her entire family does, even the children.

Jennifer said her family was having dinner when her 8-year-old daughter managed to smoothly add one of Jim Halpert’s taglines (from The Office) onto the end of another family member’s statement.

“And then you’ll be saved,” said Charissa, at the exact perfect moment.

Not to be outdone, her son, who is just starting kindergarten, later worked in a Dwight Schrute line.

“You can’t go wrong with a throat punch,” he said.

Although there are some who might bash those of us who watch a good bit of TV, who might hop on their high horse as they condescend, it’s nothing but a bunch of “yadda, yadda, yadda” to me.

Shows make it possible for people to share inside jokes. And some prompt the kind of laughter that carries up the stairs and sneaks under a door and lures a girl from her laptop to listen.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


August 3, 2015 by Karin Fuller

smilingNow I know why dogs love to ride with the windows rolled down, their head hanging out. Why they smile when they do.

We went riding last Saturday. I sat behind Didier on the back of his Harley as we followed his friend Zach McIntyre, a former St. Albans resident who now lives in Oklahoma, from our home in Hurricane to his parent’s house in Ravenswood.

Didier and Zach served together in the Marines. Zach is now a high school psychology teacher, and he and his teenage son Taos have spent the summer traveling all over the country—as they do most every year, with their motorcycles stashed in the back of their truck.

topperNot long after Zach arrived at our house Saturday afternoon, I was telling him about an old Harley scooter I’d seen on TV. Turns out Zach’s dad has restored a 1960s Harley Topper scooter and has it for sale.

That was all the destination motivation we needed to be on the road heading from Hurricane to Ravenswood the back way, over Route 34 North. The road twists up Red House hill and then starts bending back and forth so much it’s a wonder it doesn’t break. Time wise, it has to be the longest 20-mile stretch of road in the state.

We connected with other back roads and looped through such beautiful country, the air fragrant with freshly cut hay and burning brush piles and fired up barbeque grills. Wind soft on my face. Bugs wedged deep in my teeth.

I’m still fairly new to this bike-riding business, but I’m learning. Talking or smiling while riding comes with a risk.

Although this was not my first ride, it was my first long one. Didier has had his bike since well before we met, but shoulder surgery left him feeling shaky about being able to adequately handle the heavy bike around curves, so his bike has mostly been decorating our garage for a while.

We stretched our ride out with a few detours down back roads, but eventually reached the McIntyre home, where I got to spend a little time with the most interesting family. Although I was only with them an hour or two, they felt like people I’d known all my life. I learned it wasn’t just Zach and his son who’d been infected with wanderlust—the whole family has it. I listened with envious ears as they talked of cross-country motorcycle trips of the past and plans for more.

I haven’t spent much time around bikes or the people who ride them. Prior to this road trip, I’d never given motorcycles much thought. They were a means of transportation, but to me, an often impractical and somewhat dangerous means. I’m a fairly sensible, conservative person. I’m a windows rolled up, doors locked, seatbelt on sort of girl. Motorcycles don’t make sense for people like me.

And yet holy crow, was that fun!

I wasn’t around the McIntyres all that long, but realized they’ve figured out how to live more than others. They get the same number of hours in a day as the rest of us, but seem to know how to squeeze more life out of theirs.

I’ve long been living a car kind of life. Getting from here to there to the next place in a safe and mostly sensible way. Without fragrant air in my lungs. Without wind tangling my hair. Without a bug or two speckling my smile.

Without fully living every hour I’m given each day.

Even though I’m not brave enough (yet) to buy a bike of my own, I’m determined to make more time for the road.

Since I’ve learned that four wheels might move the body, but two can awaken the soul.