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Janet Sheridan

Stories by Janet

Janet Sheridan: Puzzles worth pondering

Some time ago, I wrote a column candidly confessing my inability to solve life’s mysteries. I hoped you, my readers, would contact me with possible solutions so I could sleep. You didn’t. So I’ve decided to give you a second chance with the following perplexing situations.

Janet Sheridan: Our times of madness

I hate daylight savings time and the Uniform Time Act that created it. Due to legislative action taken in the 60s — an era not know for its level-headedness — twice a year I find myself scurrying around the house, fumbling with clock controls and trying to remember whether to spring forward or fall back. By the time I manage to reset all of our clocks, pinpoint accuracy no longer matters. If the timepieces and electronic displays are within fifteen minutes of each other, I declare victory, sit down, put my feet up and think bad thoughts.

Janet Sheridan: Car sick

I spot them as soon as they enter a restaurant: weary, shoes untied, crumbs littering their clothing. They remove their sunglasses, rub the bridges of their noses and order with little interest; then they smooth out a wrinkled map or peer at a digital version on their cell phones. Road trippers.

Janet Sheridan: Memories of Valentine’s Day

I collect antique valentines. My interest in collecting old valentines no doubt flows from my happy memories of school valentine parties.

Janet Sheridan: A fool for fashion

My friend’s father railed against pedal pushers. My grandmother questioned the attire of Elvis Presley but seemed to enjoy his hips. A college dorm mother told me a true lady would never appear in public without hose, and my first principal sent a teacher home when she showed up at work in a pantsuit.

Janet Sheridan: Celebrating the solstice

Now that Christmas is tucked away in my memory, where its bustle will fade and beauty improve, I find my only regret is paying little attention to the winter solstice on Dec. 21, the day nature turns.

Janet Sheridan: Thoughts following Christmas

Last year, during the interlude between Christmas and celebrating a new year, I sat in my living room by a Christmas tree, of diminished interest and numbered days, and watched as rays of afternoon sunlight slowly expanded the asphalt patches on the snow-packed street.

Janet Sheridan: My annual dilemma

Home for Thanksgiving, I overheard a conversation coming from the kitchen where Mom was making cinnamon rolls and arguing with my youngest brother JL, “I don’t know that having two paper routes is a good idea in the kind of winter weather we have,” she insisted.

Janet Sheridan: Proliferating passwords

I recently heard that children who lick their iPads could develop mercury poisoning. Unable to validate the rumor, I decided to start another, verifiable from personal experience: old ladies in charge of passwords could develop hysteria.

Janet Sheridan: Things I wished for

When my birthday rolled around earlier this month, I had a list of things to wish for as I blew out the crowd of candles that topped my cake. Fortunately, oxygen-deprivation didn’t impact my mental acuity, and I remembered the entire list.

Janet Sheridan: Halloween loses its allure

I did not glide into adolescence gracefully. Unlike my peers who seemed to frolic into their teens with nary a backward glance, I plodded forward reluctantly, unconvinced that being a rookie in junior high school was better than being royalty in elementary school. My uncertainty intensified as stores filled with costumes and candy, the mountains displayed swaths of color, and Oct. 31 approached.

Janet Sheridan: Impossible to explain

I identify with philosophers, dreamers and academics who contemplate the mysteries of life, because I, too, ponder the unexplainable.

Janet Sheridan: At a loss for words

In junior high, I participated in a skit designed to extol the virtues of good grooming to adolescents. The five cast members each recited a verse written by our class poet and repeatedly chanted the refrain: “If you want to be healthy, wealthy, and wise, guys, clean up your act, Jack” — an exhortation indicative of both the quality of our act and its reception.

Janet Sheridan: The upside of aging

At my age, if I said I’m surprised by my gravity-altered body, I’d sound no brighter than a collie being amazed by ticks after a romp in the woods. Some things in life are as certain as a stalemate in Congress.

Janet Sheridan: Accepting responsibility

As usual, I began by wallowing in a quagmire of indecision. For months, I’d busily and happily written new material to combine with past columns for a book. Now I had a choice: attempt to publish my work or let it die an anonymous little death on my computer.

Janet Sheridan: For teachers

Last August, a niece who teaches high school posted on Facebook, “Oh, hello, teaching anxiety. There you are. I was wondering when you’d show up.” A week later, a friend in Alabama wrote, “I am going to start my 10th year of teaching next week. Can a person be full of excitement and dread at the same time?”

Janet Sheridan: Moments that linger

A few seconds in a rainforest, a sunrise shared with a stranger, a five-minute walk on a beach: all are moments that lingered and the reason I travel.

Janet Sheridan: Calendars of memories

A week ago, when I planned to wash the windows or sit in the shade feeling guilty because I wasn’t doing so, for some nonsensical reason I decided to reorganize my filing cabinet instead. I flew into action, sorting and discarding with determination, until I came across a stack of old calendars.

Janet Sheridan: Forgive me

If you saw me working in my yard in June, I apologize; I hope you had your children close their eyes as you drove by — no need for nightmares about crazed old ladies in pajamas wielding garden clippers and mumbling.

Janet Sheridan: Plans take flight

Last fall, my husband Joel and I examined our yard, deciding which perennial flowers and shrubs we would praise for their perfomance, transplant to a better spot, divide for increased vigor, discard without mourning or threaten before granting one more chance.

Janet Sheridan: In my father’s words

I started an occasional correspondence with my father after he retired in 1977 and increased it after Mom died. His responses usually began “Your letter arrived just in time; I needed something to do. You must hate it when I write back so soon. Well, anyway, here goes.”

Janet Sheridan: Good thing I retired

I recently acquired a new wellness skill, one of many I’ve learned since my retirement: skills necessary if I want to keep my teeth, judge how much pepper I’ve sprinkled on my food, and rise from a chair without injuring anybody.

Janet Sheridan: Things I miss

The '50s may have been a simpler time, but they weren’t all birthday cake and ice cream. I remember crouching under my desk, hearing my heart thump and my teacher’s hose rub as she patrolled the classroom during an atomic bomb drill. Then, the next day, she distributed iodine tablets that my classmates and I obediently took once each week to prevent goiters. As we swallowed, we imagined growing lumps hanging from our necks until people mistook us for turkeys.

Janet Sheridan: Mom's love

I remember coming home from church on Mothers’ Day, looking forward to dinner and mom’s surprise when she opened her presents — a cookie sheet, a three-pack of Dentyne chewing gum and a boxed set of lace-trimmed handkerchiefs — gifts my siblings and I had purchased despite our mother’s repeated claim that all she wanted was an entire day when we didn’t fight, scream, cry or tattle.

Janet Sheridan: Troublesome technology

When my husband and I entered our assigned room in the downtown Denver hotel, we saw an open suitcase on an easy chair, clothes strewn about, and a football game on TV. Joel about-faced, dragged a baffled me back into the corridor, and rushed off to the lobby.

Janet Sheridan: You’ll regret it someday

“Thirty-seven Things You’ll Regret When You’re Old” by Mike Spoor at listed several of my youthful follies, which I’ve detailed below. Mr. Spoor contributed the italicized regret; I added the lamentation.

Janet Sheridan: Thoughts on Presidents Day

Last Monday morning, Presidents Day, I found myself thinking about the contentious muddle in which our nation currently is mired — I worried that we’ll never find our way out of it. This concern dampened the joy I usually find in breakfast, but I comforted myself by remembering that we survived the ‘60s.

Janet Sheridan: Sleepless nights

Have you ever noticed that small concerns become major issues during sleepless nights? The occasional twinge in your molar is an abscess that will result in extraction and dentures. Your son doesn’t call because he thinks your genes have kept him from bowling a perfect game; when you remember there are no bagels for breakfast, it breaks your heart.

Janet Sheridan: Fooled by first impressions

When I met the new teacher from Chicago everyone was buzzing about at the back-to-school reception for employees of the Carson City School District, I thought he looked like a pampered rich boy. Perfectly dressed, groomed, and tanned, he was tall and impossibly handsome with impeccable manners — and dimples.

Janet Sheridan: Things I don’t need in 2014

Though I never buy a Powerball ticket, I fantasize about what I would do if I won. I dream, debate options and decide on only one immediate change: I would never again board an airplane and park my posterior in economy class.

Janet Sheridan: The day after Christmas

My family followed established traditions on the day after Christmas just as we did on the day itself: Dad muttered about bills. Mom took a lengthy nap. The oldest children whined because we’d been left in charge of the youngest, and the youngest played with the empty boxes their toys had come in, chewed on ornaments from the tree and threw things.

Janet Sheridan: Grant us the grace

During the busy buildup to Christmas, I’m going to remind myself to notice simple pleasures and open myself to them, to remember all that I have. I invite you to join me.

Janet Sheridan: Meaningful blessings, gratitude

I’m grateful for the days of autumn splendor that blessed us this year. Although interrupted by colder periods laden with long-awaited moisture, days of generous sunshine filtered through crisp air arrived with gilt-edged invitations, requesting our presence outdoors, and we complied.

Janet Sheridan: Lesser blessings

Once again, I will devote a November column to small personal pleasures most folks ignore when counting their blessings. For example, on Thanksgiving, how many of you will be giving thanks for size eleven shoes?

Janet Sheridan: The adolescent season

I amuse myself by assigning personalities to the seasons: Spring reminds me of youthful rebels optimistically battling the weary veterans of winter. Summer becomes a revered athlete incapable of delivering the 100 percent perfect performance fans expect every outing, and winter is a polar bear magnificent in its power and beauty. This fall, I decided that autumn is a temperamental adolescent.

Janet Sheridan: Sketchy motel stories revisited

After my July column that highlighted flaws with motels, I heard from two readers who confessed to odd habits they’ve adopted in order to feel safe when staying in motels. In addition, two others told me about unpleasant experiences they endured when road weary and longing for a good night’s sleep.

Janet Sheridan: Acting my age

I sprouted to unusual heights at an early age. As a result, teachers, baby sitters and forgetful relatives often assumed I was older than my years. Often, when I tattled, cried, pouted or poked a classmate, an adult would say, “Shame on you, Janet, you’re big enough to know better. Act your age.”

A surprise encounter elevates a leisurely stroll

Two years ago, I experienced nature’s magnificence as I walked along one of the many trails that twine behind the Sandrocks like tendrils of spaghetti clinging to a pot. An unexpected — but not uncommon — encounter, it lingers in my memory; and a glimpse of furtive movement, a September sun washing my face, or the spicy smell of sage can instantaneously pull it back into my consciousness.

School fashions of new bring back memories of stricter times

School fashions have changed dramatically since I carried my nap rug into kindergarten wearing a ruffled, polka-dotted dress and lace-trimmed anklets. Every day of every grade of every year from kindergarten through high school graduation, my friends and I wore dresses or coordinated skirts and blouses to class — the majority of them homemade.

Janet Sheridan: Nail files, old sewing machines serve as trusty tools

Dad watched as I tried to turn a screw with a fingernail file and asked if I would try to use a crowbar to topple a telephone pole. I continued my effort, paying no attention to the man who bought a used Willys Jeep to transport his family of seven.

Motels have lost their glow

Years ago I taught with a fidgety man who rolled his protuberant eyes when I mentioned a nice motel I’d stayed in at Lake Tahoe during a conference. He said he’d sleep in his VW Bug before a motel. Didn’t I know that “motels” is an acronym for “many opportunities to ensure little sleep?”

Motels have lost their glow

Years ago I taught with a fidgety man who rolled his protuberant eyes when I mentioned a nice motel I’d stayed in at Lake Tahoe during a conference. He said he’d sleep in his VW Bug before a motel. Didn’t I know that “motels” is an acronym for “many opportunities to ensure little sleep?”

Janet Sheridan: Wildfires leave many with nothing; love and prayers prevail

Once again, wildfires feed on the drought-stricken West. Uncontrollable infernos in a ravenous quest for combustible fuel rage against the forests, firefighters, and man-made structures that stand in their way. Those of us who call the West home scan horizons stacked with layers of brown-gray smoke, smell the acrid odor of burning landscapes, and count the number of days, weeks, months that have crept by without significant rainfall.

Janet Sheridan: Whose bright idea was this?

Our bumpy voyage began on a gray November morning when Joel, gazing at the ceiling, remarked, “I’ve never liked the lighting in this kitchen.” That comment sparked a chain reaction: If we upgrade the lights, the cabinets will look bad. If we replace the cabinets, we should add more. If we add more, we’ll need a larger kitchen. If we enlarge the kitchen, we’ll have to cut back a wall. If we cut back a wall, we’ll have to replace some flooring. If we do all that, we’ll need more countertops. If we get new countertops, we’ll need matching paint. And on and on.

Janet Sheridan: Mind-spinning questions

I sighed, scowled and fidgeted as the problem I needed to solve stomped around in my head, trailing a mob of what-ifs.

Janet Sheridan: Remembering Ernie

Each year, the optimistic, abundant personality of spring reminds me of a friend of mine who had those same traits.

Janet Sheridan: Mars and Venus shop

A pervasive joke about the shopping tendencies of men and women alleges that a man will pay $2 for a $1 item he wants, while a woman will pay $1 for a $2 item she doesn’t want.

Janet Sheridan: A less painful place

My siblings and I have become the older generation that used to look on fondly as we organized games and chased after children. We are the old folks who go to bed early so we can get up with the sun, while our descendants reminisce and laugh late into the night.

Janet Sheridan: Admitting ineptitude

I’m baffled by technology. Bamboozled. I don’t instinctively know how to navigate new sites. I’m unable to perceive the function and relationship of every command, icon and arrow.

Janet Sheridan: The games we played

As a principal, I enjoyed playground duty.