I remember when my smug, ninth-grade self began taking French in school, and what a silly language it was to me. In translation, the French would “make” a walk, instead of “taking” a walk. But wait a minute. Who do we “take” the walk from? Did somebody else own it before I took it?

“Making” a meal I understand, but how does covering a piece of furniture with cloth equal “making” a bed?  We “play” games, and kids “play,” and some folks “play” the horses, so is everything that’s fun “play?”

Playing football doesn’t look like a lot of fun to me, unless you’re a masochist who enjoys getting beaten up, and, if gambling away money you can’t really afford to lose is considered “play,” then we have a somewhat warped value system if you ask me.

We “do” the dishes, but why does that mean the same thing as “wash?” We don’t “do” our hands when we wash them, and if a lady “does” her face, it means she’s “putting on” makeup.  Putting on? Like making fun of?

It would be more accurate to say “applying” makeup, except “applying” also means to submit an application. I never had to ask anyone (except my mother) about permission to wear makeup.

We can “have” a cold, or a good dog, but we don’t “have” tired, we “are” tired. But I have a meal, I “am” not a meal. Some of the things we can have are invisible, like an attitude, or an idea, but others are real, concrete things, like sofas.

We use the sofa to “take” a nap, but that has the same problems as taking a walk. I can “do” my hair, or apparently anything else that implies a physical change or activity, but we seldom “do” our beds.

The spelling is just as bad. Eenuf is spelled enough, and det is debt. Even the rules are not always ryt (right). I before E, except after C, except in words like weird, where the rules don’t apply. “Sounding like A’ is OK, but look at the words that supposedly sound like A: neighbor (nayber) or weigh (way). Who decided that “eigh” should be pronounced “ay?”

We could blame it all on the fact that this country was built by immigrants, both legal and illegal, who each brought their own contributions to our linguistic mish-mosh. What do you expect when you take a perfectly good language like Mohawk, or Algonquin, and start adding “Thees,” “Thous” and “prithees” brought my folks from Merrie Olde England or “Geseundheits” from Dusseldorf?

What a mess! It’s no wonder that new Americans have such an awful time trying to learn the polyglot goulash we call American English.

Maybe we should start over.  “Hello” in Mohawk is spelled “Shé:kon,” and pronounced “Say-goon.”

Coming up

February is North American Inclusion Month, National Bird Feeding Month, Grapefruit Month , and Worldwide Renaissance of the Heart Month. This week is International Friendship Week, National Secondhand Wardrobe Week, and Random Acts of Kindness Week. Lincoln's Birthday and Oglethorpe Day are all on the 12th.  The 13th is Clean Out Your Computer Day and World Radio Day.

Extraterrestrial Visitor Day, Ferris Wheel Day, and Valentine’s Day are the 14th.  Lupercalia, National Gum Drop Day, and National Hippo Day (I thought that was for Christmas!) are the 15th, and National Almond Day is the 16th.  The 17th is National PTA Founders Day, World Human Spirit Day, and Champion Crab Races Day. We end the week with Cow Milked While Flying In An Airplane Day, and Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.

The senior shopping bus will make its next trips to Wal-Mart and Whole Foods on Feb. 22 and March 8, 2017. Call CDTA at 437-5161 two days in advance to arrange for pickup.

The Hilltown Seniors will meet again on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 10:30 a.m. at the Berne Senior Center. The meeting will be followed by the usual scrumptious potluck lunch, so be sure to bring your plate and silverware! There is also an upcoming trip to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park on April 5. Lunch will be at the Caterina DeMedici Restaurant, and cost is $50 for members and $70 for non-members. Call Shirley Slingerland at 797-3467 to sign up.

The Rensselaerville Senior Citizens’ Club meets the second Tuesday of each month at noon for lunch at the Medusa firehouse (28 Route 351, Medusa). Bring a dish to share, and eating utensils; coffee and tea are provided. The cost is one dollar.

Hilltown Community Resource Center will continue their lunches on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month through the end of April. A freewill donation may be made at the door. The entree for Feb. 23 will be ham and scalloped potatoes.

The Valentine’s Day party at the Berne Senior Center is coming on Tuesday, Feb. 14, and we are having shrimp scampi. Add a box of chocolates for your snuggle-bunny, and you have the holiday sewed up.

Menu

— Monday, Feb. 13, chicken with peach sauce, broccoli, brown rice, wheat bread, tapioca pudding, and milk;

— Tuesday, Feb. 14, Valentine’s party! Shrimp scampi, spinach, wheat bread, apple crisp, and milk; and

— Friday, Feb. 17, grilled muenster cheese sandwich on wheat bread, tomato soup, coleslaw, apple juice brownie, and milk.

Doors open at 11 a.m. and lunch is served promptly at noon.  We also have transportation to and from lunch! Just tell Linda Hodges when you call with your reservation.

Does your writers’ group, bearded dragon fanciers club, or cat costumers society need an easy place to meet? Why not meet at the Senior Center? Come have lunch, and then get together with your friends! There’s plenty of space, and the center is open for all of us. We already have games, dominoes, and cards after lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays, so join us.

Please call Linda Hodges 24 hours in advance to 872-0940 to reserve lunch, or email her at: , or sign up when you come in. Tell us how many are coming, your name, and your telephone number. If you’d just like to come and help out, call Linda, send an email to , and put “volunteer” in the subject line. Lunches are provided by Helderberg Senior Services, the Albany County Department of Aging, and Senior Services of Albany. The town of Berne Community and Senior Services Center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail (Route 443) in Berne.

There is a word in Yiddish for complaining and generally giving someone a hard time when you are displeased. That word is “kvetch,” which is a letter combination that you may need to practice. Kvetch can be either the action itself, or the person doing the kvetching.

A really good Kvetch is the one who can return an item to the store, and come out with more than they took into exchange. I mention this because I am, myself, moderately adept at kvetching, which I consider to be an appropriate response to any situation in which I feel I have been shortchanged, or treated in a manner that makes no sense.

The first lesson in being a kvetch is: “If you have a question, ask it!” There is no good reason to put up with nonsense as long as the person with whom you disagree is not carrying a gun, in which case the proper response is “yes, of course” to whatever they say.

This morning was a case in point. I opened a new pail of kitty litter and found a free can of cat food. Yippee! There was also a coupon for “buy one, get one free,” but the coupon expired today. This irked me, so I looked up the phone number of the cat food company, and called it.

They had rather shot themselves in the foot this time, since I was happy with the free can until I saw the outdated coupon. Now I feel that I have been deprived of something to which I was entitled. In my humble opinion, this is not the world’s best marketing strategy. I called the media/press office, but had to leave a message on a machine.

The gentleman who answered the customer-service number was named “Larry.” Larry  did not sound as though English was his first language, although his English was far superior to my ability to converse in anything else.

Larry was very polite, and assured me that the company would replace the coupon, and send me a few others to compensate for my trouble. He took my contact information, and made sure to ask my permission (twice) for the company to contact me for feedback.

To follow up on the issue, he asked me to provide the UPC and other numbers from the package  of kitty litter. We are talking about a 35-pound pail here, not some little five-pound box. In the interests of fair play, I trundled all the way out to the garage, where I discovered that the expiration date on the kitty litter wasn’t until August 2018.

Why on earth would you put a coupon that expires Jan. 31, 2017, in a product that can be sold until 2018? I would think that this would annoy people more than it would make them want to buy more of that cat food, although the free can (also dated August 2018) did soften the blow.

Larry advised me that, in cases like this, the company would assume that the seller of the litter was at fault. I asked how you could blame someone who was playing by all the rules, and selling the litter within it’s “good” time period. (I would also like to know how kitty litter could possibly go “bad.”)

I asked what kind of marketing strategy was in play here. Did the company think that people only buy things after they run out, so everything gets used immediately? Not out here in the country, we don’t; we know Mother Nature and her minions a bit better than that.

Larry didn’t know what the company reasoning was, although he did inform me that most promotions have expiration dates. He offered to pass my questions along to his supervisor, who would route them to the appropriate department. I agreed, and will keep you posted.

Interestingly, they could have avoided the entire issue, since there is no federal requirement that kitty litter have an expiration date. As a matter of fact, the Food and Drug Administration has no requirements whatsoever regarding expiration dates for food or cosmetic products.

The FDA website states: “With the exception of infant formula, the laws that the Food and Drug Administration administers do not preclude the sale of food that is past the expiration date indicated on the label. FDA does not require food firms to place “expired by,” “use by,” or “best before” dates on food products. This information is entirely at the discretion of the manufacturer.” Who knew?

This does not in any was absolve the manufacturer from liability if the product causes a problem, or makes someone sick. “A product that is dangerous to consumers would be subject to potential action by FDA to remove it from commerce regardless of any date printed on a label,” the website says.

All this does make me wonder if one could avoid paying full price for most things simply by kvetching? It takes no more time than coupon clipping, and frequently yields better results. Maybe I should start a “Rent a Kvetch” service? I already have free coupons for fruit juice bars and hand lotion.

Coming up

February is Barley Month, Dog Training Education Month, International Expect Success Month, and Library Lovers Month. The week of the 5th to the 11th is Children's Authors & Illustrators Week,

Dump Your Significant Jerk Week (always the week before Valentine’s Day), Freelance Writers Appreciation Week, and National School Counseling Week. The 5th is Popcorn Day, Shower With A Friend Day, and Super Bowl 51. Lame Duck Day and Girl Scout Cookie Day are the 6th. The 7th is Ballet Day, Bean Day, International Day of Black Women in The Arts, and Laura Ingalls Wilder Day.

Opera Day is the 8th, and National Stop Bullying Day and National Bagel Day are on the 9th. All The News That's Fit To Print Day is the 10th, and the 11th is Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk Day, Satisfied Staying Single Day, and Make A Friend's Day.

The senior lunch bunch would like to extend our sincere thanks to the town of Knox for its generous contribution to our programming, to the town of Berne for providing the senior center and its upkeep, and to the BKW school for the wonderful and efficient youth volunteers who give us so much help.  The lunch contributions we receive go directly to the food vendor, so the support from all these friends makes the entire program possible. Thank you all.

The senior shopping bus will make its next trips to Walmart and Whole Foods on Feb. 8 and 22, 2017.  Call CDTA at 437-5161 two days in advance to arrange for pickup.

The Hilltown Seniors will meet again on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 10:30 a.m. at the Berne Senior Center.

February birthdays will be celebrated at lunch on Tuesday, Feb. 7, and there will be a Valentine's Day party on Tuesday, Feb. 14. The menu for Valentine’s Day is shrimp scampi, so guys, you could take your sweetie out for an elegant Valentine’s meal and not have to tip the waiter.

Menu

Come in out of the cold and have a hot lunch with friends and neighbors; the menu for next week’s lunches is:

— Monday, Feb. 6, lasagna roll-up, marinara sauce, romaine lettuce with tomatoes and carrots,  Italian dressing, Italian wheat bread, pears, and milk;

— Tuesday, Feb. 7, meatloaf with tomato gravy, seasoned oven roasted potatoes, cauliflower, wheat bread, birthday cake, and milk; and

— Friday, Feb. 10, mac and cheese, stewed tomatoes, wheat bread, baked apples, and milk.

Doors open at 11 a.m., and lunch is served promptly at noon. We also have transportation to and from lunch. Just tell Linda Hodges when you call with your reservation.

Does your aardvark club, reminiscences group, or old-time radio buffs club need an easy place to meet? Why not meet at the senior center? Come have lunch, and then get together with your friends. There’s plenty of space, and the center is open for all of us. We already have games, dominoes, and cards after lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays, so join us.

Please call Linda Hodges 24 hours in advance to 872-0940 to reserve lunch, or email her at: , or sign up when you come in. Tell us how many are coming, your name, and your telephone number.  If you’d just like to come and help out, call Linda, send an email to , and put “volunteer” in the subject line.

Lunches are provided by Helderberg Senior Services, the Albany County Department of Aging, and Senior Services of Albany. The town of Berne Community and Senior Services Center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail (Route 443) in Berne.

Location:

Being sick makes me stupid. Now that flu season is here in full force, accompanied by the other horsemen of headache, sniffles, and fever, we all have time to reflect upon these seasonal gifts.

When I was a kid, my mother had a special box of toys and games that were only for “sick days.” The intent was to keep me amused instead of whining; a distraction. It worked really well.

I looked forward to being sick, as long as I wasn’t throwing up. As a matter of fact, this probably led Mom to the test of whether I had a fever, used to determine if I was “really” sick. To this day, if I’m feeling crappy, I’m never sure whether I’m “really” sick, or just sick of working. I don’t  trust my own judgement, about 90 percent of the time, because I suspect myself of malingering.

As a result, I have developed what I call the television system of illness calculation. If I can watch a PBS documentary on the life of some obscure 18th Century VIP, I’m probably not very sick. The intellectual energy and concentration required is just as great (if not greater) than the energy required to balance the checkbook or calculate something in the office.

If I can’t handle PBS, but “Law and Order” or “CSI” still appeals, I’m somewhat sick. If all I can stand are reruns of “Bewitched” or “Happy Days,” I should call the doctor for an appointment. If even cartoons, or any TV at all is too much, I should probably be in the hospital.

This system is used in conjunction with the aforementioned thermometer-based criteria but, as I get older, that seems to be less reliable; my temperature is often below 98.6, and they never gave me any rules for that.

Of course, even being in the hospital has its redeeming features. Outside of the disease load carried in every breath you inhale, the service is pretty good. There is practically no hotel on Earth that will send someone in to fluff your pillows or give you a sponge bath.

The food is variable, and never has enough salt, but somebody else cooks it and brings it right to your bed, and you don’t have to dress for dinner. Usually, insurance even pays for most of it, so it can be cheaper than the Ritz-Carlton.

In a way, I don’t understand why people are so anxious to leave. The fact that I can sit up, or drag myself down a hallway with an IV bag on a pole, has very little to do with my ability to climb the stairs to the bathroom, or cook an entire meal. I remember one time when I was immensely grateful to find that potato chips would stay in my stomach, because that took care of the food issue.

If television doesn’t work for you as a standard, feel free to substitute gluing versus driving framing nails by hand, or playing Chopsticks versus Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

In any case, I wish you a healthy start to the new year, or at least someone sympathetic (who can cook) to take pity on you and fluff your pillows.

Coming up

January is Bath Safety Month, Be Kind to Food Servers Month, California Dried Plum Digestive Month , International Quality of Life Month, and National Volunteer Blood Donor Month .  The coming week is Elvis' Birthday Celebration Week, National Folic Acid Awareness Week, Universal Letter Writing Week, and Cuckoo Dancing Week. The 8th is Argyle Day, National English Toffee Day, and Asarah B'Tevet.  The 9th is Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, and National Cassoulet Day.

League of Nations Day and National Cut Your Energy Costs Day are on the 10th, and the 11th is Learn Your Name in Morse Code Day. National Hot Tea Day is the 12th; followed by Blame Someone Else Day, Public Radio Broadcasting Day, and Rubber Duckie Day on the 13th. The 14th is Eagle Day, and Dress Up Your Pet Day.

The senior shopping bus will wend its way to Walmart and Whole Foods on Jan. 11 and 25. Call CDTA at 437-5161 two days in advance to arrange for pickup.

You can also get free transportation to and from lunch. Just tell Linda Hodges when you call with your reservation.

The Hilltown Seniors monthly meeting will be Jan. 14 at 10:30 a.m. at the Berne Senior Center. Remember to bring your own place setting for the potluck lunch.

Does your Pinochle gang, Scrabble fans, or quilting circle need an easy place to get together? Why not meet at the senior center? Come have lunch with us, and then have fun with your friends. There’s plenty of space, and the center is open for all of us. We already have games, dominoes, and cards after lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays, so join us.

Menu

Doors open at 11 a.m. at the Berne Senior and Community Center, and lunch is served promptly at noon.

— Monday, Jan. 9, baked ziti, Italian blend vegetables, Italian bread, chocolate pudding, and milk;

— Tuesday, Jan. 10, baked fish with herb sauce, stewed tomatoes, cranberry juice, rice,  rye bread, applesauce cake, and milk; and

— Friday, Jan. 13, cheeseburger with Swiss cheese, seasoned oven roasted potatoes, Brussels sprouts, wheat hamburger bun, oatmeal cookie, pears, and milk.

Please call Linda Hodges 24 hours in advance to 872-0940 to reserve lunch, or email her at: , or sign up when you come in. Tell us how many are coming, your name, and your telephone number. If you’d just like to come and help out, give Mary Moller a call at (418) 861-6253, or email her at , and put “volunteer” in the subject line. The senior and community center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail in Berne.

— Photo from Linda Hodges 
One of Santa's elves, who looks a lot like Linda Hodges, chairwoman of Helderberg Senior Services, was spotted driving the Berne Senior van to make pick-ups on Dec. 23 for another delicious lunch at the Berne Community and Senior Center. Lunch is served Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays at noon.

Happy New Year! What high hopes! What determination! What impossible expectations!

Somewhere in that emotional stew lies real life. There are so many “easy” answers to our dilemmas, but most of them are either simplistic or just plain wrong.

Yes, you can start your year over again at any point; you can start your day, or your life over. The whole point of many baptism and initiation rituals is to mark a separation point between the me-that-was and the me-that-will-be. To give us a new, clean sheet to write on.

This is noble, and wonderful, and I imagine that, for some rare people, it really does wipe out the past. What I suspect is that those ceremonies give us a point from which we can see the real possibility of change. We deliberately loosen our ties to the past, and decide to re-frame our view of it. By changing how I look at it, I can change the size and weight of my historical baggage.

Most of the time it’s a process, not an epiphany. I am not Saul on the road to Tarsus, or Buddha under the Bodhi tree. Nor am I that LSD-inspired kid in the sixties who looked at the flower, said “This is the answer!” and then ate it.

Everyday life is less clear; sometimes it’s absolutely murky. Events and attitudes from the past sneak out and bite us in the hand just as we are reaching for something new. We are, to some extent, the product of our experiences.

The problem, and the blessing, of the past is that it is the past. Every task completed or goal achieved may not be accompanied by the roar of the crowd like a high-school touchdown. But neither will every person we meet beat us down like a mentally-damaged parent. Not everyone needs to climb on the backs of their fellow beings.

Shades of gray aren’t any good as guideposts, but I get to choose what my markers will be. The impact of events or emotions does not have to be permanent.

Going forward, no one is actively trying to kill me like they were in ’Nam, or Iraq. No one is likely to carry me off the field on their shoulders, either.

I may resent the fact that I’m no longer precocious, and that I can’t blame everything on my childhood, but the future doesn’t have to be an endless film loop of my past. I can decide, on a moment-to-moment basis, how much of that baggage I want to drag around.

Do I get to jettison the whole shebang and start over with no memories and no regrets? Barring a major head injury, probably not. But I can step out into each new phase conscious of the past, but not ruled by it.

It’s still there, but it is the past. I can’t change it. I can change how I look at it, but it is over. The only direction I can go is forward, and, with a little luck and a tailwind, I can make the future different.

Happy New Year!
 

Coming up

January is National Polka Music Month, Oatmeal Month, National Hot Tea Month, National Mail Order Gardening Month, National Braille Literacy Month, and the beginning of Carnival Season.  The week of the 1st -7th is Celebration of Life Week, Diet Resolution Week, and Someday We'll Laugh About This Week.  Copyright Law Day, Ellis Island Day, Polar Bear Plunge or Swim Day, and World Day of Peace are all on the 1st.

The 2nd is Happy Mew Year for Cats Day, National Buffet Day, and National Science Fiction Day.  National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day is the 3rd, and the 4th is Dimpled Chad Day, Trivia Day, and the Earth at Perihelion.  Epiphany or Twelfth Night is the 6th. January 7th is Fruitcake Toss Day, Harlem Globetrotter's Day,  International Programmers' Day, and National Tempura Day.

If you’re running low on shrimp or veggies for tempura day, the senior shopping bus’s next trips are scheduled for Jan. 11 and 25.  Call CDTA at 437-5161 two days in advance to arrange for pickup.

We also have transportation to and from lunch! Just tell Linda Hodges when you call with your reservation.

Does your book club, Canasta group, or quilting circle need an easy place to meet? Why not meet at the Senior Center? Come have lunch with us, and then get together with your friends! There’s plenty of space, and the center is open for all of us. We already have games, dominoes, and cards after lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays, so join us!

Menu

Doors open at 11 a.m. at the Berne Senior and Community Center, and lunch is served promptly at noon.

Monday, Jan. 2, closed;

Tuesday, Jan. 3, chili con carne, spinach, corn bread, apple crisp, and milk; and

Friday, Jan. 6, griller muenster cheese on wheat bread, tomato soup, coleslaw, apple juice, brownie, and milk.

Please call Linda Hodges 24 hours in advance to 872-0940 to reserve lunch, or email her at: , or sign up when you come in.Tell us how many are coming, your name, and your telephone number. If you’d just like to come and help out, give Mary Moller a call at 861-6253, or email her at , and put “volunteer” in the subject line. The senior and community center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail in Berne.

Overflowing generosity is evident in the hat and mitten tree decorated by Hilltown Seniors and the donations for the Rock road Food Pantry.

Another year is coming to a close. We have so much to be thankful in our group of seniors. Every month, we meet at the senior center for fellowship and good food and we plan activities and travel.

This year, we visited Washington, D.C., Lancaster, went to dinner theaters, took a train ride, and went on sightseeing tours that included wine-tasting and shopping. And we always had room for ice cream.

At the end of the year, we have 82 members. We try to schedule as best we can things to do for all ages. We had an Olympics contest, made jewelry for Mother’s Day, and made a memories book.

This year, we ended with a Christmas party held at Rock Road Chapel in Knox. I would like to thank Karen Stark for her tremendous help as a church member and senior member. I would also like to thank Alyce Gibbs, Shirley Slingerland, and Sharon Vincent (who all said, “We aren't doing this again!”) But, girls, it was so much fun!

Linda had a short Christmas program and we were entertained by the “Bell Ringers” directed by Staci Wright and Dennis and Mary White and Bill Dibble with songs.  We would also like to thank Stewart’s for the donation of make-your-own sundaes. And also, to Bonnie Conklin’s Connections class for the cute table decorations.

Members were asked to bring mittens and hats for our mitten tree. The tree was overflowing and we also filled four grocery bags; these were taken to the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School for distribution.

Also, members were asked to bring goods for the Rock Road Food Pantry. Again the response was overwhelming. ’Tis the season and I am so proud of the Hilltowns Seniors for helping others.

When eggnog’s

 generously filling

Each and every

 Christmas mug  

And siblings tour

 miles and miles

To greet you with a hug

There’s scarce else

 I’ll be wishing

Than this simple little prayer

Of peace and calm

 and blessings much

On Christmas Day this year.

Merry, merry Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year!

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