“H” is for “Habit”

Habits are those recurring things you do, often without even thinking about it. Get up in the morning and brush your teeth. Turn right at the intersection, even though turning left would get you there faster. Forks on the left; knives, right. After a few repetitions, you’re pretty much on autopilot. Common wisdom says you’ll have created a habit and turned on autopilot after repeating the same behavior for 21 days. Common wisdom is trite and not always right.

A 2019 article on Healthline.com points out: “According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit. The study also concluded that, on average, it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.” That’s not to say no one develops a habit in 21 days. When you got your first job and had to be there by 9:00 a.m., you likely developed that habit far sooner than in 21 days. On the other hand, years of New Year’s Resolutions broken by February 1 tend to support the postulation that habit development generally takes more than 21 days.

I’ve been thinking a lot about habits lately, probably because I’ve developed so many bad ones. Well, let’s say “unproductive.” For example, I’m a night person. Always have been. I never quite got the hang of the “get to work by 9:00 a.m.” habit. Mine was more like “as long as I’m there by 9:30 I probably won’t get fired.” That seems to have worked, since I retired under my own steam six years ago. Not only did I no longer have to even try to get anywhere by 9:00 a.m., I didn’t even need to get out of bed before 9:00 a.m. That also meant I didn’t need a fixed bedtime. Yay, me! My natural sleep patterns kicked in and kicked me out of whack with most of the rest of world, even other retirees. I got so used to my new habits, I was always surprised to discover how much people did before noon — going to the gym, out to breakfast, to doctor’s appointments, shopping. And since my days started later and later, I had fewer hours left to fit in all the stuff other people did before noon.

Then came 2020 bringing “senior hours.” When going to the grocery store became a potential matter of life and death, I had to get up even earlier than when I was working if I wanted to shop with fewer potentially contagious people. It was a struggle and definitely didn’t become a habit after 21 days. However, I found that, once up and caffeinated, I was less stressed and got a lot done before noon. Most important, I wrote more on those days, earlier in the day, than on the days I slept to … well, let’s say “close to noon.”

Writing makes me feel good, like a whole person. And I need to figure out a way to have more of those days. It has finally dawned on me that being retired doesn’t really mean I can do whatever, whenever, I want. Without some sort of schedule, the days just drift along, and I realistically don’t have an awful lot of days left to waste. I need to develop some better habits, starting with a set sleep schedule. I just hope it doesn’t take any longer than 21 days to get to autopilot.

 

written to include Your Daily Word Prompt “trite”

 

“G” is for “Garanimals”

Once upon a time, there lived a children’s clothing brand called Garanimals. The concept of this line of matching separates was simple yet genius. Each color-coordinated article of clothing had a sewn-in tag with a picture of an animal and a large number. Children, or their fashion-challenged parents, could learn to dress by pairing tops and bottoms having the same animal tag. Shopping for kids’ clothes was a piece of cake because the animal/number tag sewn inside was duplicated on a large outside hang tag visible from several feet away. Plus, the clothes were reasonably priced. For a childless favorite aunt/step-grandmother like me with an assortment of kids to buy for, Garanimals was a godsend. The brand weathered the 1970s and 1980s, declined some time in the ’90s, was resurrected in 2008, and is sold exclusively at Walmart.

Now, I suppose I could end here, but I feel a little guilty after “cheating” with yesterday’s reblog. So I did a little research to see what else I could learn about Garanimals. Here’s what I found out:

  1. “Garanimal” has been used as a slang term for an adult who still dresses “matchy-matchy.”
  2. Novice roadies have also been called garanimals. (Roadies are the people who do the heavy lifting backstage at rock concerts.)
  3. Kids who grew up dressing with Garanimals yearn for the good old days, wishing someone would make Garanimals for adults.
  4. One of those wistful kids has a Pinterest site called “Garanimals for Adults — Capsule Wardrobes.” Wikipedia defines a capsule wardrobe as a “small collection of garments designed to be worn together which harmonize[s] in color and line.” Doesn’t that sound just like Garanimals?
  5. (Saving the best for last) “Garanimal” is a marijuana strain touted for its ability to deal with symptoms of anxiety and stress.

“F” is for “Funk”

Technology and I just did not get along today, so I’m admitting defeat and republishing my short story, “You Get the Funk After Death,” originally published on May 24, 2019.

 

“You get the funk after death.” Words of wisdom from Peter on my first day on the job. We were digging the latest grave, and I was still pretty skeeved from all the new smells that hit me when I arrived that morning. I never knew about the funk until I started working at Floyd’s Funeral Parlor. I never knew a lot of things until then.

Since I was a kid, I’d wanted to work at Floyd’s. I’d pass the big, old Victorian house twice a day, to and from school. Out front, Floyd’s tuxedoed statue stood a good 15 feet higher than the tallest passerby. He was always tastefully ringed by a bed of fresh lilies. You might think he’d be intimidating, looking down his nose on everyone, but those lilies softened him and reassured bereaved families that their dearly departed would be in good hands at Floyd’s. Floyd seemed like the kind of man I wanted to be.

“Almost like fingerprints, everyone’s funk is different,” Peter continued.

“How so?”

“Well, take the little old lady we’re burying today. She came here from Myrtle’s Nursing Home, where she’d lived for years. You know how nursing homes always have that stale urine, musty kind of smell? Well, when you’ve lived with that stink for years, it becomes part of you. Plus, she lingered for a long time after she got sick, and decay had got a foothold before she passed. Her family brought a bucketful of Tender Violet cologne to try to cover it up. I guess they thought if the perfume matched her name, violet would become the prominent aroma. Now her funk could best be described as decaying violets with a hint of dog piss.”

“She doesn’t smell like that in the viewing room. I think the embalming process must have taken care of it.”

“Nah. It just adds to the mix. You don’t notice it as much because the lilies are overpowering.”

“What about the guy who came in last night? The one who had a heart attack on the 18th green over at Shady Glen Golf? If where you came from becomes part of the funk, he should be smelling like fertilizer, but he doesn’t. He just smells awfully sweaty.”

“There you have it! By the time you get to the 18th hole, everyone smells sweaty.”

“So the funk isn’t quite like a fingerprint, after all?”

“Sure, it is. Didn’t you ever notice everyone’s sweat smells different? Garlicky and fishy, if you just had scampi; boozy if you drank lunch.”

“Hey, Petey! Stop your yammering and just dig! I’m trying to get some sleep here.”

I wasn’t about to wait around to find out who said that. I dropped my shovel and ran. Peter caught me by my overall strap as I ran past. Nearly choked me to death before he brought me to the ground.

“Pfft! When are you not trying to get some sleep, Harvey? You think you got someplace else to be?”

“Peter? Who’s Harvey? Isn’t that the name on the next tombstone?”

“Listen, Petey, even the dead have to rest up to make a good first impression.”

“On the kid? I think you’ve already made your impression, scaring him half to death. It’s his first day. I planned to ease into letting him know what’s what.”

“Not the kid; Violet. We were sweet on each other when we were young. I want to look my best when she sees me.”

I must be cut out for this work. I was already getting over the shock of hearing a dead man talking, because I jumped into the conversation.

“Mr. Harvey, how is she going to see you? I mean, I gather you ARE the Harvey in the next grave. I can hear you but can’t see you. How will she?”

“Don’t know how it works, Kiddo. It just does. She might not see me right away, if she’s not over the trauma of dying yet. But when she does see me, I want to look as good as I can.”

“Harvey, you’ve been dead 15 years already. How good can you possibly look?”

“Listen, Petey. Floyd does an A-1 job of embalming and prepping for burial. He may not be able to get rid of the funk, but he sure can preserve the body. I just wish he hadn’t concentrated only on the parts that would be seen at the viewing.”

“What do you mean, Mr. Harvey? I thought the embalming fluid replaced blood through the whole body.”

“It does, Kiddo. But Floyd does a lot more than just stuff us with that formaldehyde mix. He fixes up our faces, too. Haven’t you ever heard anyone say ‘Aw, he looks just like himself’ when they pay their respects?”

“Yes, but…”

“Listen, Kiddo. When that train hit me, it threw my parts all over the place. Floyd got them all back and reattached what he could.”

“He made you whole again, Harvey. What’s the problem?”

“Well, Petey, let’s just say, he’ll never be a plastic surgeon. Or a tailor.”

Death comes differently for everyone. Sometimes he comes violently, painfully. Other times, he comes peacefully, stealing from morphine dreams. Sometimes he’ll snatch people before they know what hit them. Other times, he’ll wait for months in the shadows, slowly siphoning someone’s life away. Anytime he wants, Death’ll take from a hospital, bedroom, golf course, lake, middle of the street. No matter how, when, or where he comes, when Death takes, his leavings come here to Floyd’s.

Inspired by a lyric from The Cars’ “I’m In Touch With Your World” and written in response to a prompt from Story A Day.  

“D” is for “Dragon”

The draggin’ Dragon was all out of pep.
Circadian rhythm, all out of step.
Somehow he lost the fire in his belly;
An eviscerated Tubby without any Telly.

So he set out to find a cure for his woe.
A match to rekindle the fire down below.
He stumbled upon a jalapeno popper.
Just what he needed to fire up his hopper.

Heed well this tale when you see a Dragon,
No spring in his step and behind a-laggin’.
A flaggin’ Dragon with no fire in his belly
Is more like a snake in a bowl full of jelly.