I Saved the Shirt

I made a big boo-boo after recently washing a new shirt, which was to throw it in the dryer without reading the label. Didn’t I teach you all to always read the label? I guess I was in a hurry. It was 100% cotton, so at most, the dryer temperature should have been very low, and it should have been removed while still slightly damp. I should have known better.

When I looked at my new long-sleeved shirt hanging in the laundry room, I just knew in my heart what I had done. But I decided to confirm my observation before relegating it to the doesn’t-fit section of my closet. Sadly, I discovered that I did indeed shrink my shirt, so I decided to visit my good friend Google for assistance. When I typed in “how to unshrink a shirt,” I was rewarded by an abundance of articles and You-Tube videos. “What could I lose?” I thought, so I set out to see if I could save the shirt. I am happy to report that it worked, so I want to share my method with you.

I filled up the bathroom sink with warm water and then squeezed in a few tablespoons of hair conditioner. I then stirred the water with my hand, placed my shirt into the hair-conditioned water, and then squished the water into the shirt. Then I went and made myself a cup of coffee. (Tea would work as well!)

About thirty minutes later, I returned to the scene of my science experiment. I emptied the sink,  squeezed out as much water as I could, and then removed more water by rolling it in a towel.

Next, I laid the shirt onto one of my drying racks (a dry towel would have worked as well), carefully stretching the sleeves to the desired length. In this case, I had another new shirt to help with the measurements. Then I waited until it was dry while periodically tugging the sleeves to maintain the pre-shrunk length.

When I tried it on, I was thrilled with the results. I will tell you that there are other videos and articles on unshrinking sweaters, which I have not attempted to try yet. I will report back to you all once I do my next experiment.


The Red Barron Takes to the Skies

When I arrived at my gate after walking a full mile to the furthest reaches of the airport, I peered out the window and was faced by the reality of my decision to take the propeller plane rather than crossing one of the scariest bridges in America. “Oh my.” I thought. “Did I make a mistake? Oh well, there is no turning back now.”

So I boarded the 44-passenger plane and settled into my window seat in row 5. I stared out the window and noticed the propeller looming large just feet from where I sat. I wondered what would happen if the propeller disengaged from its spot. “Would it sail to the right before plummeting to earth, or would it crash through the window and slice me to pieces?”

I knew I was being ridiculous, but I was not thrilled when I realized that there was no window shade to hide my view. I buckled myself tightly into my seat and looked around, taking particular note of the exits. This time I listened intently to the safety discussion by the flight attendant. I imagined that the man piloting the plane was adjusting his goggles and his scarf as he prepared for takeoff.

When the engines roared to life, I took a deep breath and settled back in my seat, prepared to begin my adventure. The plane began to vibrate, much like one of those beds in a tacky motel room I remember seeing in old movies. The noise of the engines was loud.

The movement tickled each part of my body, from my head clear down to my toes. The plane continued its climb until it finally leveled off at twenty-two thousand feet. The vibration subsided, but the noise continued. If I had had a seat companion, we would have been unable to chat.

I looked out of the window beyond the propeller to watch the miniature buildings disappear from view. I opened my book and settled back for the ride, which was surprisingly uneventful. I ordered my beverage and tore open my “meal” of two crunchy biscotti. (Incidentally, the plural is not biscottis.)

Less than two hours later we began our descent, and I silently congratulated myself. I concluded that I would have no difficulty boarding this plane in four days for my return trip home. It was not as bad as I had imagined.




Never Enrage Football Fans

The end of summer signals the beginning of a new school year, the cooling of the evenings, the reduction of daylight, the commencement of Halloween and Christmas decorations displayed way too early in our local stores, and the kickoff of football season.

This past Saturday, Dad and I donned our Gamecock apparel and settled down to watch the first game. Excitement was in the air in anticipation of the 2017 season.

It was a lively game—from the opening kickoff return for a touchdown until the clock ran out. We were on the edge of our seats until the final play. This excitement-to-the-end game reminded me of a very historical game occurring years ago. I asked Dad if he thought all of you were familiar with “The Heidi game.” I bet not all of you are.

It was November 17, 1968, and the players were the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders. With little more than a minute remaining in the game, the Jets were ahead by three points after a successful field goal. After the kickoff, the excitement began with a Raiders touchdown followed by a fumbled kickoff by the Jets, which resulted in a two-yard touchdown run by Oakland—both touchdowns occurring within just nine seconds. The final score was Oakland 43 and New York 32.

So what is the point?

What made this game legendary, including tying up the switchboards of NBC, the local telephone company, and the NYPD, was an earlier decision by NBC executives to switch to the showing of the children’s movie, Heidi, in the event that the game exceeded its allotted time.

After the Jets’ kickoff following their field goal, the network switched to a commercial and never returned to the game. The only people who witnessed the double touchdowns were those who were fortunate enough to be in the California stadium.

The thousands of calls coming into the switchboards were split between viewers begging the movie to begin as scheduled and angry football fans enraged by not being able to see the conclusion of the game. Ironically, the network execs had decided to reverse their decision, but because the switchboards were jammed, they were unable to get through to the man responsible for pulling the plug on the game. The score was eventually scrolled across the screen, much to the ire of the fans when they realized how dramatic the final minute of that game had been.

This debacle led to a new clause in the NFL contract, which required all games in a team’s home market to be broadcast in their entirety. They also installed a dedicated phone in the control—“The Heidi Phone”—insuring that the lines of communication would always be unrestricted to those in charge, thus insuring that this disaster would never occur again.

As for me, I am positive I did not watch the Jets-Raiders game, since I had little interest in football at that time in my life. However, if I did, it would have been a Giants game, not the Jets that I would have watched.

But I do recall tuning in to watch Heidi that evening as well as remember the ensuing hullaballoo. The moral of the story is that you never ever mess with football!


Count Your Blessings

Another natural disaster has wreaked havoc on millions of people this week. This time, it is the horrific floods in Houston which have affected strangers as well as several members of our family. As I mentioned previously, “Mother Nature can bring us beautiful sunrises and sunsets, breathtaking mountain views, and flowers of every color. But she is not always our friend.”

Unlike the flooding we experienced back in 1999 when Hurricane Floyd invaded our home in New Jersey, social media and television during Hurricane Harvey was enormously helpful in locating people trapped in their homes. A tweet by a desperate man seeking help for his wife who was in labor was noticed by two nearby rescuers in a pick-up truck. The Houston police department was asking for boats on Twitter, and their requests were answered. You want to send money to the Red Cross, just text REDCROSS to 90999, and ten dollars will be donated to Red Cross disaster relief. How cool is that!

Fortunately, our Houston family members did not lose power—only water—but we knew they were safe because of texts from their phones and posts on Facebook.

During that storm in 1999, when Floyd dumped 10 inches of rain on us, we sent out a call for help for a generator from our friend, Don, after staying up all night bailing out the basement. Then we waited.

Nobody texted or tweeted or posted our calls for help back then. When our telephones went dead, we could do nothing but wait until Don came, so we just bailed, rested, bailed, rested. After this experience, Dad installed back-up battery-operated pumps in our basement. He forever referred to that house as Water World.

Our water problem in New Jersey back in 1999, along with the South Carolina Flood of 2015, was just minor inconveniences. We did not lose our homes, and both storms were truly just small nuisances compared to the suffering witnessed by those who lost everything during Katrina and Harvey. We have a small anecdote to remember but nothing really very noteworthy.

We were truly fortunate.

I Should Have Known

As I mentioned previously, as the day of the eclipse approached, I worried about a lot of things going wrong, but the biggest and most important concern I could not control. Despite the ever-changing forecasts all pointing towards at least a cloud cover, on the big day the sky was a brilliant blue with just a few cumulus clouds floating above.

It was not until today, when Dad was outside playing snake hunter with our neighbor Vincent (the viper was hiding in the bush near the hot tub, FYI), that I remembered that I had done something to guarantee perfect eclipse-viewing weather. How could I have forgotten that several weeks ago, I resurrected Grandma’s old Irish family tradition of hanging up the rosary beads outside?

In our family, the practice involved hanging them from a clothesline about a week or so before a wedding. As far as I know, the custom never failed, so I thought, why not? Having no clothesline in our yard, I improvised by using a palm tree, reasoning that my dearly-departed ancestors were flexible.

And as the saying goes, the rest is history.

Moving Experience

We have all been lured into attending the “got-to-see” movie, watching the award-winning television show, or reading the latest best-selling book, but then wondered what the hype was all about. So when I read the stories about the total solar eclipse which was coming to our corner of the country, I kept my fingers crossed and hoped that the rare event would not disappoint me.

Dad and I planned an eclipse party, and invited friends and family from four states to witness the wonders of the sky at our house. I assembled a thirty-two-song eclipse playlist, which consisted of sun and moon songs such as “Here Come the Sun,” “Blinded by the Light,” “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” “Let the Sunshine In,” and “Dancing in the Moonlight.”

We crafted a menu, shopped, shopped some more, and then shopped one more time because I worried that we would run out of food. I bought new pillows, sheets, and towels, because I did not want our houseguests to have worn linens. I baked muffins, breakfast breads, cookies, and brownies, and then worried about what would happen if the lodgers in our home did not like each other. How awkward would that be?

Each day, I checked the long-range forecast for the one thing out of my control—the weather. What would we do if the skies were cloud-covered or if we had one of our typical afternoon thunderstorms?

Fortunately, everyone seemed to enjoy each other’s company, the food was plentiful, and when we awoke yesterday morning, the chance of rain was slim. We watched the eclipse dance its way across the continent on television, and around one o’clock, we went outside and took that first peek. It looked like a cookie with a bite taken out of the corner.

Every few minutes, we returned to the yard, all the while watching the event travel across the U.S. At 2:30, we all positioned ourselves outside with our eclipse glasses in place and our eyes facing skyward.

The surroundings had an unusual appearance—not quite the same familiar color that we usually see at twilight. It is hard to describe, but something about the light was just not quite the same.

Then the moment arrived: 2:41 pm EDT, and we were allowed to safely remove our glasses. While I was expecting the sky to be completely dark, that was not the case. But we were able to see a few stars, and the surrounding homes were all dark. The moon appeared black with just an outline of the sun surrounding it.

The air cooled approximately 10-15 degrees, and then suddenly, when the 2 ½ minutes of totality was complete, it got bright very quickly and we could hear the sounds of birds singing. None of us was disappointed. I held back tears. It was truly a moving experience.

The next morning at breakfast, we researched the details of the next total solar eclipse in the United States, which will be on April 8, 2024. I suggested a reunion. Where should we go: Austin, Texas, Erie, Pennsylvania, Montreal, or Vermont?

I guess I have become an umbraphile. Who else is interested in chasing another total eclipse?



Going Green Back in the Day

We all have different ways to choose our credit card companies. It may be because of an affiliation with our bank, the cash-back rewards or airline miles given for our purchases, or maybe because it is just the only one who will give us their card.

There was a time when our grocery and gas purchases resulted in a different reward, which was both a reward and an activity. We were given stamps, which we then had to paste into a book. There were 24 pages in a book and 50 stamps on each page. Do the math and you will see that each book contained 1200 stamps.


We would redeem these stamps for gifts such as towels, glasses, jewelry, furniture, and toys at your local Green Stamp Store. It was probably one, if not the, first customer loyalty reward of its time. People would choose their grocery stores based upon the number of stamps one could get for their purchases. It could take close to a year to fill two or three books.

Like the JC Penney catalogs you are all familiar with, the S&H Green Stamp company had catalogs filled with their products, including the amount of stamps needed to get such treasures.

I remember going to a Green Stamp Store with Grandma as a kid, and then later with Dad. He recalled getting Green Stamps when he would rent cars during his business trips. Dad thinks we “bought” a small grill with our stamps.

Although no longer available in the original stamp format, the company still exists and has gone digital in stores such as Barnes and Noble and Sephora, which give Greenpoints. It’s something to consider if you want to go modern retro.