Ask Pearl is the Dennison Gazette’s advice column. Pearl Jenkins answers your questions about all various and sundry things—relationships, books, gardening, bridge, pool, etiquette, or even a recipe you’ve been trying to find (or dying to try).
Vaping, Vamping, the Vapors
While I understand your stance against smoking that putrid weed, tobacco, I wonder what you think about vaping. It’s all the rage now, comes in ever so many intriguing flavors (banana-elderberry!!) and doesn’t stink up any place. But I’m on the fence. Sounds too much like vamping to me.
— Rhonda O.
I must admit I hadn’t the slightest idea what you were talking about. I thought perhaps you were talking about someone who had the vapors and I may have had an episode of hysteria as I imagined someone falling back on a fainting couch and sipping a banana-elderberry cocktail.
But then I looked it up on the Google, and oh my goodness. Have you seen how dangerous these things are? Elderberry is for fighting colds. Not for inhaling. I think it’s time to get off the fence, Rhonda.
Needle in a Haystack of Paper
I have stacks of paper and mail before me, and a stack of manila folders, some of them stuffed with some of the paper. I would like to organize it all, and I have started, but the manila folders all look the same and sometimes I have put stuff in one that really belongs to another. You seem like a very organized person. How do I get, and stay, organized?
— Hopefully, Overwhelmed
Dear Overwhelmed, Hopefully,
First, let’s talk about how you refer to yourself. Do you see how it sounds? Either way we read it, it sounds as though you’re hoping to be overwhelmed, in which case I’m not at all sure why you are needing advice, because it certainly appears you have achieved your aspiration. So let’s change that to Hopefully Organized. Attitude is everything, Dear.
(Of course, this is not true. Attitude is not everything. There is also actually doing things. But the attitude in which we approach them can be, sometimes, everything. I do wish we could stop having idioms that require such explanations.)
People do not realize, but having manila folders does not magically organize your papers. Once you have them, you have to put things into the right folders. And for heavens sake, try labeling the folders. If they all look alike, write on the outside. Right on the tab they give you for writing on. Or put a sticker on them. Or draw a cartoon, like a dollar sign for your tax receipts, a gasoline pump for your gas receipts, an apple pie for your recipes, you get the idea. Then open the right folder to put the papers in. You’ll find yourself organized in no time!
What to Stuff into a Hollow Leg
As soon as I read your grocery shopping advice and your insights on cooking, I knew that, finally, I had found the right person to ask. (I, too, started cooking at age 5, except instead of peeling potatoes I was bashing garlic, chopping onions, and dicing tomatoes for my older sisters.)
My 14-year-old grandson lives across the street. Even though his mother is a superb cook (of course she is! she’s my daughter!), he comes to my house every day for an after-school “snack,” which, in my house and for that boy, is a full-blown dinner. Of course I love that he does this. I live to feed. But I don’t seem able to satisfy his hunger. He comes hungry, he eats everything I’ve cooked, and for a few minutes, he looks as if the hunger has been satisfied. But then, a moment later, he seems very hungry again! I worry about him. Will the boy be always and perpetually hungry? Will he ever in his whole life know the feeling of being happily full? How do I feed him so that he is sated?
I am scratching my head but willing to do whatever it takes, even if my grocery list (yes, of course I shop with lists) quadruples in size.
— Hungry Boy’s Grandma
Dear Grandmother Hunger,
Are you sure his mother is feeding him? I know you say she is a good cook (you taught her! how could she not be?) but has she actually cooked for you? I always tell people my daughter is a wonderful cook. But I have never actually eaten her food. I always cook at our family gatherings. It’s not personal; it’s just how it’s done. So it’s possible you just think she’s a good cook but you’ve never actually tested it out.
Or, is he feeding an imaginary friend? You should check his pockets. He may be filling them up to feed his friend. Check under the porch. His imaginary friend might be hiding there. Or he might be pretending to feed his friend but really be keeping the food to eat in the middle of the night.
If it’s none of that, and he really is that hungry, make him drink two glasses of water before he eats. It’ll leave less room in his belly. And then add lentils to everything you feed him. They are very dense and will fill him up. And I can promise you his imaginary friend will not be stealing them off his plate.
You Really Can Ask Pearl
To ask Pearl Jenkins for a bit of heartfelt advice, you really can email to ask. Just use the address she’s provided above: firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions will be considered, though time, space, and fit may determine whether an answer is published.
Photo by Chad Cooper, Creative Commons via Flickr. Post by Pearl Jenkins.
By turns thoughtful and hilarious (even, inexplicably, both at the same time), this deeply Midwestern book quietly unfolds a vision for how to navigate in a world where we can’t always resolve things.
As much as the characters (like Pearl Jenkins) have a relationship with poetry and story (and they do), it is also a profound book about naming both the things that have held us back and the things we want, to move us forward—about choosing life. While it plays at the level of a few characters’ personal journeys, it is ultimately a novel for our time.
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- Ask Pearl: Vamping Vapers, Organizing Stacks, Filling the Hollow Leg - November 21, 2019
- Ask Pearl: Up on the Rooftop, a Problem with Groceries, Shameless Flattery - November 7, 2019