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Archive for the ‘addiction’ Category

There is actually rain on the ground this morning. Granted, not much more than a sprinkling, but I’m counting it. According to the weather lady on my favorite news show, much more is predicted to fall over the next week. This is a good thing. Our poor trees here on the water deprived west coast are looking sad, my friends, and that makes me sad. There is little doubt anymore the world climatically changing. I, for one, am happy I was born when I was, when there wasn’t much really to concern ourselves with on the weather front. Now, there were other things to occupy our thoughts certainly. We weren’t stress free back in the day by any means. For example, when I was in elementary school we had “duck and cover” drills. This was during the Cold War Era, when the red menace lingered on everybody’s minds. Duck and cover drills required students to crouch beneath tables and desks and put their hands over their heads. This posturing, it seemed, was to keep us safe in the event some idiot somewhere on the planet pushed the button marked “nuclear annihilation”. Even though I was but a peanut at that time of my life, the idea my desk was in any way going to save me from extinction should an atom bomb be detonated in my vicinity, seemed a ridiculous concept even to my yet unformed mind. Haven’t moved on that assessment as of this writing, by the way. To me, that solution was tantamount to holding a tennis racquet in front of your face to protect yourself from an acid assault. Really? Did anyone believe this? Please hold up your hand.

We didn’t have as many things to worry about as we have on the radar now. There was less information available on, well, just about everything. Smoking, for instance. Nobody worried about it. The information available on tobacco use was far sketchier in the 50’s and 60’s than what is at our fingertips these days. Smoking back in the day was a social phenomenon. Everybody across the social strata from milkman to movie star was doing it. Cigarette companies were not likely to publish anything alerting us to the dangers of their popular product, lest it put a damper on their ballooning bottom line. Everyone old enough to buy a pack of cigarettes, it seemed, had a cigarette pack on their person. Commercials pushed the product to the unsuspecting public. Billboards touted the killer weed with inviting captions like “more doctors prefer smoking Camel cigarettes than other cigarette”. Today, if you light up, you are practically a pariah, but back in the 60’s, people had gold cigarette trays on their coffee tables to offer to their guests. Nowadays, most rental units don’t allow smoking. All government, hospital, or public buildings certainly prohibit anyone lighting up either inside or on the grounds of their facilities. People, before we were educated about lung cancer, emphysema, and all the other top of the line tobacco related diseases, smoked everywhere. Theaters always had a cloud of smoke hovering around the screen. Bars, airports, offices, banks, markets, all had available ashtrays for people to toss their butts in once they’d sucked the nicotine out of their favorite smoke. You haven’t lived until you’ve flown five hours cooped inside an airline with everyone inhaling and exhaling. I smoked back in those days, and even I wanted to strap a parachute on and bail out an exit door. Once rumors of the side effects began surfacing, there began to be non-smoking sections for those wishing to abstain. The smoking and non-smoking sections were located directly next to one another. I always thought this such a waste of energy. The tables on the borderline of the non-smoking area weren’t getting much benefit from the delineation, or any of the non-smoking tables, if the truth be known. Smoke doesn’t have the discipline to remain only in a cordoned off section of the room, it tends to migrate.

You could get hooked for considerably cheaper in the early days as well. A carton of cigarettes ran you about $3.50. Today, purchasing. a carton won’t leave you with enough change out of a hundred dollar bill to come up with bus fare. Vaping, seems to be slightly more acceptable, particularly with the younger generation. Yesterday I saw a van driving along with what I believe were two riders inside. Looked to be the driver and one passenger. It was hard to tell who was behind the windshield, because they were vaping and there was so much smoke inside the cab at first I thought the vehicle might have been on fire. I don’t know if vaping is purported to be better for you than cigarettes, but sitting inside that bubble of fumes can’t possibly be good for you.

I am working today, though actually less working, than looking busy, which is a pastime I find more exhausting than plowing a forty acre field. Not that I’ve ever plowed a forty acre field, mind you, or any field for that matter. However, it seemed like a good frame of reference. The powers that be have told me should I find myself bereft of something to do, I am welcome to do what I would like. As it happens today, what I would like to do is write a blog.

Half the population of the retirement facility I work for, seems to be seated in the lobby with me. It’s cold and rainy, so no outside excursions, and the activity person, usually a presence on the weekends, has left the company for greener pastures. Finding a person to replace her, has proved to be a longer process than anticipated. I arranged with the kitchen to have a hot chocolate and snack cart delivered so everyone is on a chocolate and marshmallow high at the moment and having a good time. There is a fairly high turnaround in this business. People burn out like old candles after a while. The employees working in the memory units of such establishments really need a huge pat on the back. It is not an easy job, and to be good at it requires much empathy and an extra special dose of patience. Like so many businesses, we are short staffed this year. The pandemic really threw a wrench in the works when it comes to employment. The recruiting sites appear to have an abundance of jobs and I have admit I am curious as to where the workers who used to fill these positions have disappeared to. Applying for a job I’ve noticed has become a real process. I pulled an “application packet” for a prospective employee yesterday that should have been delivered on a hand truck. When I accepted the position here, before I could finalize my paperwork, I had to be fingerprinted, pass a background check, and get a complete physical. Then, I had to go through a grueling two weeks of watching mind numbing videos before I could actually begin to learn the job I was hired for. Amazing. If I was going to be pivotal in planning the next moonshot for NASA, it would make sense, but for a two day a week concierge position at a 56 bed nursing home it smacks a bit of overkill. Just my opinion, naturally, and as far as I know nobody asked me to toss it in the ring. For my part, I’m just happy to have found a little niche that I can fit myself comfortably in. I work two consecutive eight hour days and can call the rest of the week my own. I make enough in both paychecks to nicely pad my income every month thus allowing me to do some of the frills and extras I like to enjoy. This without attracting much interest from the IRS and having to give a lot of it back. All good on all counts.

One of the perks a little extra jing in my bank account will afford me, is I will be getting on a plane on Monday morning for a visit to Oregon. A friend of mine sharing a very close birthday date with me has invited me up to see her new apartment and do a little celebrating. Yay. I find myself unusually nervous about flying this time. Not because it simply isn’t fun anymore (to me it’s like boarding a bus in the sky), but because it’s all so different since twelve years ago when I last boarded a plane. I have to measure my cosmetics apparently and can only take 3 oz. of each. K. I am taking a carry on bag a friend gave me. Now, let me preface this by saying I am not well known for my light packing skills. Usually I take enough with me that should we say be snowed in for the entire winter, I will be adequately suited up without having to do a load of laundry. Looking at the suitcase open on my bed last night, it looked as if I put in two pairs of underwear and a pair of socks, I would have reached full capacity. Hmmmmm. So, I’ll carry a big handbag I figure. Perhaps I could wear multiple layers and then peel myself like an onion when I get there. If it’s cold here, it’s colder there, so I have to put something in my bag besides underwear and socks to survive.

I have not been in Oregon since 1990. My ex-husband and I made our home in Longview, Washington that year and often traveled down to Oregon to shop (no sales tax) or enjoy a day on the beautiful Oregon coast. If it wasn’t for the fact it insists on snowing there every winter, I really found the northwest a gorgeous place to collect my mail. From time to time when I get to examining the high cost of living here in Northern California, which is every time I get gas, go to the grocery store, or write out my rent check, I think about relocating north. Probably that is as far as I’ll ever get from actually doing it, but I do like to think about it on occasion.

So, I have put away the first four hours of my shift and will head off to lunch. When it’s slow like this getting away from my desk and getting a new perspective even for a half an hour can be helpful. If all else fails, I can drown my sorrows by digging into all the leftover Halloween candy left in the break room.

Have a great weekend. Stay dry, or dance in the rain, whichever is your preference.

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Were I a knee, I would describe myself as out of joint. I feel uncomfortable, like my life doesn’t quite fit me properly anymore. I suspect this is because I am in the process of shedding my old life as I knew it, and stepping into a totally different and unfamiliar new one. I don’t like it. I don’t like this unsettled muddled feeling at all. Sometimes, I wish I still enjoyed a dry martini now and then. It’s not I don’t drink at all these days, I do here and there, but I can’t remember the last time I downed a martini. I find my life works just fine without alcohol on most days, with the desire for a cocktail usually only popping up in social situations, which have been less frequent over the past couple of years with the virus running amok. Perhaps this uneasy feeling is partly due to the pandemic? It has been two years now, and I think the impact of being constantly vigilant has finally caught up with me. People are getting cranky, stores are low on supplies, and prices are heading up every week. I spent $109 at the store the other day and came home with eggs, cheese and kitty litter. I could not believe the little cheeses I used to pick up for what I considered an extravagant $4.99 are now selling for $11.99. Apparently along with supply chain issues the rising prices are also linked to the rising minimum wage. Don’t misunderstand me, I think workers in any field should be paid a living wage. However, it doesn’t stop there. Rick used to say the problem with raising the minimum wage is that prices go up commensurably leaving us in the same situation we were before the minimum wage went up. It’s a dilemma for sure how to deal with the inflation running rampant at the moment, plus the virus which has one again mutated to take another huge toll on our population. Glad I’m not running this country. You should be glad as well because I find balancing my checkbook an all day affair.

My first husband, the children’s dad, was a genius with numbers. Truly, he was just a genius at so many things. Math was never my strong suit. I endured high school algebra and geometry, but cruised through both classes by the skin of my pearly white teeth. One of my first, and the shortest, job I ever had was working as a bank clerk. I showed up for work at eight, spent the entire morning adding and then adding again huge columns of numbers never getting the same total one single time. You’d think with random luck I might have accidentally hit it more than once, but not that day. I went home at lunch and never came back. Instead I called my new boss and said she would thank me down the road for submitting my resignation, and wished her well on finding a more suitable replacement. Thankfully, there has been much forward progress since then.

Fortunately I haven’t had to add much of late. I have found myself a bit flat this January, as if a lot of air had leaked out of my tires. Dale used to say when he got like that he needed “spiritual food”. Thinking that advice could never be bad for my overall mental health, I got together with his daughter and sister-in-law, both very spiritual beings, to help me reinflate my tires. Yesterday we met “virtually” in person and spent a couple of hours outlining our intentions for the upcoming year. The idea was to create a vision board with pictures indicating our goals, dreams, and aspirations for 2022 to help us focus on where we want to go and what we want to achieve. For me at least, it definitely reinflated my spirit and rebooted my energy. I may not accomplish everything I listed, but at least I have created a loose game plan for myself to follow. If you don’t have some plan of action it’s like sending a football team out on the field with no playbook. They may all be excellent players but once the whistle blows everyone will be running around willy nilly with no united goal in sight.

Trips are definitely in the offing over the next months. I do not want to sit here in my sweet little house watching the grass grow. One of my first trips will be in May. I am meeting a friend who I haven’t seen in over twenty years in Redding for a four day getaway. We chose Redding because, a) there are lots of things to see and do in that area, and, b) it is roughly the halfway point between where I live in the Sacramento area and she lives around Salem, Oregon. While there, I am going to satisfy two of my bucket list items which are seeing the Celtic Women perform live and going zip lining. This is exciting stuff. Well, it’s exciting for me at least. I can’t speak for how riveting it is for you on your end.

I watched “Places in the Heart” around 3 a.m. last night. Saying that, gives you a glimpse into how well my new sleep aid is working. There is a scene in the movie where the newly widowed character Sally Field is playing goes into the bank to get instruction on how to write a check. Before he was killed, her husband had handled all the finances. Now, without him, everything, including raising the children and keeping a roof over their heads fell totally to her. I identified with that scene, having been there myself many years ago. It brought into perspective for me how far my journey has taken me since then. Over the years, through trial and error, I have discovered what works in my life and what does not. I like to think like powdered sugar on a freshly baked donut, the best and most useful of what I’ve picked up has stuck to my sides, while the rest of it that either didn’t work for me or was not needed, has sluffed off and been left behind.

One of the items I pinned on my vision board, was learning new things. My goal is to learn several new skills, or at least try them on for size, every month. To this end, I bought a mason jar. Inside the jar I placed folded pieces of paper with the skills I would like to aim for this month. At the end of the month I will look at those I have actually completed, acknowledge I did them, and toss them. Those left in the jar I will roll over into February and see it perhaps I can accomplish them during that time, and so on. Yesterday, I tried out the first one, hanging it on the line to see how it looked. I signed up for a beginning watercolor class on line. Now, I have been dabbling in art since I was in elementary school, many times earning my living with my creative skills. Watercolor, however, has always been an art form I have been interested in but never pursued. At the assigned time, I signed into Zoom with the other students and picked up my brush. There was a pre-assigned list of supplies to gather, which I’d laid out before me. Also, we had been instructed to download a sketch and duplicate it on watercolor paper before tuning into the class. Done and done.

The instructor, a woman and apparently a teacher on the college level, was chatty and helpful. The student’s video buttons were engaged, but we couldn’t unmute so the only voice heard was the instructor Oh, and her dog, Nelson. Nelson actually wandered in and out of camera range occasionally offering a bit of input on what he was observing. For me being unable to ask questions or share ideas was like having one hand tied behind my back and trying change a tire. I am more comfortable in a classroom where there is an exchange of ideas. This was my first virtual art room. I have to say I prefer meeting in person but like everything right now we are safer apart than huddled together so virtual meetings are safer and more convenient. The sketch we had been given to reproduce was of water lilies. Our first task from the instructor, was to paint our leaves in a wash of green. I was almost done with the first leaf, there were three, when I looked up to see the teacher (all three leaves washed) moving on to the lilies themselves. Ach. Hello, unmute, unmute, expletive. Oh. Anyhow, I abandoned my leaves for the first lily and as I was busy washing pink across my flowers, I heard the teacher telling us to move on the the pistil. Her flowers, of course, were done. I believe the pistil is the center circular part of the flower often yellow in color. However, I can’t be sure of this because I was in mute mode and couldn’t inquire. The instructor was painting that part of her flower, so I abandoned my pink petals and squeezed a blob of yellow on my pallet and began to paint the first of my pestils. Before you could say Leonardo de Vinci the instructor was holding up her completed picture and asking us to do the same. At that point, I hit my no video button as well and waved my goodbyes. Once I signed off, I sat and finished the picture at my leisure which, surprisingly, I really like. There’s one little folded piece of paper in my Mason jar reading “take an art class” headed for the trash bin come February 1st. Yay. There’s an old saying I heard a lot while living in the south I think applies here, “Do something, even if it’s wrong”. I believe the lesson here is that it is better to try and fail then to not try at all. There ya go.

Funny how doing one thing often begets another. Once done with my lilies, I felt the urge for the first time in over a year to pull out my sketch book and drawing tools. For the rest of the day I sat happily at the table creating the first drawing I’ve done since my life became more stressful. What a lovely sense of relief it was to find myself bent over my pencil again. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever feel a movement in that direction again.

So, create something different in your life today. Take a different route to work, eat something you’ve never tried before. Be brave, make a difference.

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Looking out my window this morning, the patio chair closest to the house is barely visible. A heavy bank of fog has moved in making the landscape murky, and trees and bushes but shadowy figures moving in and out of view in the background. Growing up in Nova Scotia on the arm of the Halifax harbor, fog was an integral part of my world. At night, tucked in my little bed in the my room on the second floor of my grandmother’s large comfortable home, the fog horn was often the last sound I was to hear before drifting off to sleep. As I’ve said, repeatedly most likely, I do enjoy a little weather. I would not be content in a place where one season looks like the next, and a bit of inclement weather less likely than developing a case of smallpox. Change, in all things, is what, to me, makes life interesting.

Even if you must go to the same job every day year after year, I believe it is important not to follow the same route every morning in order to get there, or to bring the same lunch to put in the fridge in the break room you’d eaten the day before. Once I dated a man who had his clothes lined up in his closet according to the days of the week. There were his Monday pants, hanging next to his Monday shirt. On the floor beneath them sat his Monday shoes and socks waiting to be put on once his Monday clothes were in place. I dated him for two years and never saw him in other than his Monday shirt on a Monday in the time we were together. If he removed a catsup bottle from what he referred to as his “staples shelf” a bottle of catsup was immediately added to the list hanging on a clipboard on the wall to be purchased at the next trip to the store. Each moment of his life was neatly organized. I like my surroundings to be neat, but I don’t want my life too tidily in place as to not have room for movement.

Now, let me preface this writing by saying I am by nature a very organized person. I do run a tidy ship in my home and don’t find comfort sitting around in a bunch of clutter or disorder. That is just me. If you wish to sit in your house with old McDonald’s bags tossed in the corner, piles of unfolded laundry on the couch and your last dish sitting in the sink dripping maple syrup, it is not my business, nor would I judge you for doing so. This is simply not how I choose to live. Each of us has our own way of plowing through life, and I believe whatever works for you, is precisely what you should be doing.

I had a friend who went through a twelve step program for an addiction he was fighting. As his friend, I went to a meeting with him on several occasions by way of support. The speaker on the first visit was talking about how important how you keep your personal area is to your overall well being. I believe there is truth to this. Most likely if your living space would be suitable for Porky and his pals to take up residence in, your life might well be a reflection of this. But who am I to say? My house is clean, but my life has been untidy often and had many chaotic spaces in it. I’m just throwing the information out there. You may chew on it any way you might like.

Speaking of chewing, there is good news on the cow flatulence front. Cows pass gas or burp, it would appear, at an alarming rate which is negatively effecting our ozone layer. A farmer by the name of Joe Dorgan living in Prince Edward Island (PEI to us Canadians) discovered by feeding his cows organic seaweed it made the animals far less gassy. Go team Canada! They are still investigating how to make this seaweed accessible as a food source for all the gassy cows presently strewn across the globe, as well as determining whether this is a short term fix or a long term one. Either way it is quite an amazing discovery. Right on Joe.

I think of this, because yesterday I went to visit my mother. No, she does not suffer from gas. However, she is presently living in a board and care in a rural section of a Sacramento suburb. It is a lovely area, populated with large ranches situated on huge chunks of property. While driving along the back roads, I passed a flock of wild turkeys deciding whether or not to cross the road, a bee farm (I guess you’d call it that) and a huge flock of cows grazing in a pasture. There you go, the much needed connection to the previous paragraph. Having just read the article about the farmer in PEI, my mind naturally went to the the bovine gas producers as I drove on by.

There are currently three residents and not a single cow in the board and care where my mother stays. There were four, but one lady passed away several weeks ago. My mother and the other female resident both have varying stages of dementia. The third resident, the other woman’s husband, lives with her but is in fairly good health. He moved in to be close to his wife. I find that terribly sweet as I write it. He is always by her side. It is my understanding they have been married for years and when she needed more significant care he opted to join her without hesitation.

Last week, I went to the dollar store and purchased Christmas stockings and all kind of goodies to stuff them with. Then I went to another store and found warm socks for the ladies, and a wool cap for the gentleman in the group. I had noticed on my visits there were perhaps four hairs remaining on the top of his head. Rick, when I met him, was totally bald and always favored wool hats in the winter months to cover this exposed skin in the cold weather. The gentleman was so excited to get the hat, it immediately went on his head and was still in place when I was saying goodbye several hours later. He also told me he had never had a stocking in his life and was most pleased to be able to hang one up. I don’t know his story, perhaps it’s a religious preference, or just a personal one, but all in all it was really fun and a big hit on the other end. Funny how a little something like that can bring a smile to someone’s face. Small acts of kindness, really do have big impact.

The hat made me think of Rick, not that I don’t often have him on my mind. We were together nearly twenty years. That is not a vacancy you fill easily. As I said, he was bald when I met him, having begun to lose his hair in his thirties. With all the stress I’ve had in my life over the past three or four years my hair has taken a hit. Fortunately, I had quite a bit to begin with, but it certainly is less lush then it used to be. Once the hair went, Rick cultivated the middle aged manscape on his face, basically a moustache which was attached to a neatly trimmed goatee. The hair shows up on the face, I believe, as it begins to disappear on the top of the head. I thought he looked wonderful without his hair, and as I never knew him with it in place, never noticed the loss of it. He told me it was devastating for him, however, when his hairline first began to recede. I can feel that. I had a very dear friend who was much older. His hair had completely disappeared on the top of his head but he still had a healthy growth around the sides. His solution to this problem, was to grow it really long on one side and draw that up over the vacant space on the top. Once in place he sprayed it into submission. A comb over. Let me be the first to say, this is not a good look. If the wind comes up, for example, or you go swimming? The hair on the side either stands up or droops to one side and the empty field is revealed. Seriously, I would much rather see a cleanly shaved bald head any day then that. I’m just saying. In the end it is the person existing below the hairline is who is important not what’s growing on their head.

As we age, the things that seemed so important when we were young seem to fade into the background. People gain a few miles on them and aren’t as shiny and factory fresh as they were in their twenties or thirties. The good news unless we invent a magic elixir, all of us are going to age. As yet, I have heard of no effective cure for it. Oh, there is plastic surgery (sometimes scary), and there are a myriad of products out there touting youthful results if you use them, but in the end aging must be faced and accepted as part of the journey.

So, I am inside and cozy on this foggy, foggy day. Have many projects on my table in various stages of production so lots to keep me busy. Christmas is on the horizon and a new year with hopefully more exciting prospects and great bounty for all of us.

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I’ve been struggling this week. I read my monthly horoscope when the first of October arrived, as I generally do the beginning of each month. The astrologist said there were to be hard edges to the month for those born under my sign, and those sticky points are already poking me in the ribs. Let’s face it, sometimes life isn’t easy. I try to put on my smiling face in the morning, as I far prefer it to my other expressions, but sometimes it is an uphill battle to keep the corners facing up.

My relationship bag is filled all the way to the brim, and slopping over onto the floor. It seems like I get the wrinkles smoothed out of one relationship, and a bubble seems to pop up in another. Truthfully, I think life has become so stressful over the past couple of years, people are starting to wear thin at the edges. Friends and relatives who are usually amiable and easy to get along with appear to be sporting thinner skins than usual of late. I’m sure of guilty of a bit of that myself.

There are days, when I think I could happily inhabit a small hut at the top of a mountain in Tibet with only Miss Boo the Queen of Cats and perhaps a small dog for companionship. I know this is simply how I am feeling today, but as it is definitely how I do feel today, better to acknowledge it and do something constructive to get on past it. Sometimes, you have to get these feelings out, hang them out on the line to air for a while, and then take them down and put them away in order to move on to the next thing on your agenda. When I do that, rather than stuffing them way down deep inside me or turning to a Midnight Milky Way or caramel frappaccino for solace, I find I function on a much higher level.

To help with my anxiety, I’m seriously thinking about joining a local gym. That statement in and of itself should be an indication of how desperate I am for outside stimulation. The first gym I joined was in my twenties. I actually won a two year membership to this gym in a contest I entered at a car dealership. I never win anything. So, when they drew my number, I felt I had to acknowledge the universe for the nod, and went religiously until my free membership expired. After that, I slowly drifted back into my old habits. It’s not that I don’t exercise, I do. I am very active most of the day, and try to walk at least forty minutes every day without fail. It’s structured exercise I rebel against. Every time I get involved in a gym situation, something in my body goes south. The last time I signed up, had me in physical therapy for three months for a pulled shoulder muscle. This time, I believe I will engage a personal trainer for a couple of months to show me how to do the work outs correctly. I tend to get overly zealous and most probably forget the correct way to use the machines five minutes after I am shown what to do, if not sooner. Sometimes we retain only what we want to retain, or what interests us, letting the rest of the information seep out the other ear to disappear into the wind. For instance, if someone tells me the Door Dash driver is about to deliver my cheeseburger and fries I’ll be standing at the door waiting, but if an instructor has just shown me how to use a pulley that feels like someone is ripping my arms from my shoulders, my interest level may be less than keen. I’m just sayin.

On another front I need some work on, I watched a financial planner on a news show this morning discussing ideas for living within a budget. I find this almost as riveting as a lecture on exercise. With prices appearing to be endlessly rising, however, I felt I’d better listen in. Rent, for example, is really sucking me dry, as for about everyone else who doesn’t own a home in California. Blessedly, my landlord has kept my rent where it was when I started, so at least I’m not worse off in that area than I was three years ago. There’s not much risk with me as a tenant. I’m neat, I pay my rent on time, Boo and I don’t throw a lot of wild parties, and I don’t do drugs or drink alcohol (well other than an I occasional margarita with friends). God, when did I get so boring? The only thing I’m addicted to these days is Downton Abbey and my morning coffee. Sorry, I was stifling a yawn.

Another thing on my to-do list, once my world finds a comfortable place to rebuild itself, is I am definitely going to have to seek out some kind of work. This financial planner said take your gifts and use them. Huh. Again, the idea of going back to work is also not one that has me dancing on the coffee table. I’ve worked most of my life, and wasn’t opposed to not doing so anymore when the opportunity arose to allow me not to have to. I’m not a lazy person at all. Really I’m not. I am, however, tired of having to get up and spend the day in an office somewhere at this juncture. If totally honest, I would prefer not to ever have to do it again. Since I didn’t marry for money (something I might have put more serious thought into), and didn’t plan well for when I got older, unless I hit Super Lotto or someone unexpectedly donates millions to my savings account as a benevolent gesture, I am going to have to figure out a way to get some money coming in rather than just sitting here watching it going out.

I have a friend who housesits. I don’t hate that idea. Currently though, she is staying at a house that is very isolated, minding both the house and the owners two beautiful golden retrievers. Recently I spent the night there with her for a bit of a break. As gorgeous as the location is, I wasn’t sure I was still in California by the time I wound around the mountain backroads in order to get there. I need a little more interaction with civilization than that. I like to see a neighbor or two mucking about in their gardens from time to time, and a little life around me. A dessert oasis or Montana ranch probably wouldn’t be the ideal place for me to make my home. Conversely, I don’t like living in the city either, butted up next to your neighbors with endless lines of traffic and a crush of people everywhere you go. Where I live now seems to be the best of both worlds. A small foothills community with enough people to be cozy but not so many as to make me claustrophobic. Traffic here is not a problem, which I really enjoy. When I lived in the Bay Area, it would sometimes take me two hours on the freeway on a Friday night in bumper to bumper traffic to get home from work. I am so happy those days are behind me.

Once, back in my twenties, I was stuck in such a log jam of vehicles on a Southern California freeway. I smoked at the time. In my defense, everyone smoked at the time. You smoked in offices, you smoked in movies, you smoked in bars, you smoked on airplanes, you smoked, smoked, smoked. We didn’t know as much about the dangers during those years, though it was beginning to become apparent tobacco certainly wasn’t beneficial to our well being. I remember my mother had a flat covered gold dish on the coffee table filled with cigarettes for company. Kill your neighbor, was the policy at our house. Who knew? But, I digress. That day on the freeway I was driving my VW bug. I had the window down on the drivers side and was happily puffing away as I inched along the road stuck in the poorly titled (at least on that day) “fast lane”. As usual, the radio was pumping out some tunes and I was busy with my free hand shifting gears on my manual transmission. In traffic such as that you shift from second to first and back up again as traffic ebbed and flowed. I do love a stick shift. Still miss driving them. Have to admit though, in rush hour traffic constantly having to be messing with the gear shift and clutching can be exhausting after a while. My back seat on that particular day, was piled high with items I was going to donate to the local thrift shop the following weekend. On top of the pile, a big macrame type throw pillow that had seen better days. A car jogged in the gap between the small space separating my bumper and the car in front of me, causing me to react suddenly. Jerking my arm up my cigarette slipped out of my fingers and flicked out the window, I shifted (pardon the pun) my focus to what was going on ahead of me and leaned back to enjoy the nice breeze flowing in from outside. A mile or so down the road, I began to smell smoke. Being young, and blonde (a lethal cocktail), when I noticed little bits of ash floating about, I attributed the embers to a fire brewing outside somewhere. I’m shaking my head along with you. Why there would be embers inside my car was the fire outside, boggles the mind, but what can I say? Sometimes I’m amazed I made it past twenty-four. Drivers on either side of me were now gesturing at me. To be polite, I smiled back and waved back at them. I know, pitiful. Finally, sensing these people were not just being friendly, I looked in my rear view mirror to see my back seat filling up with an alarming amount of smoke. Hello? Turning to look over my shoulder, the pillow was fully engulfed. The only good news was it seemed to be the only thing on fire at that point. Stuck in the fast lane, I somehow was able to grab the edge of the flaming fabric and with one strong tug miraculously threw it out the open window. God takes care of drunks and fools, as they say. Moving along, I could see my pillow burning brightly on the asphalt in my driver’s side mirror. The guy behind me just rolled his eyes and turned both palms towards the sky. Sorry. So glad I don’t have any of those habits to worry about getting off my back anymore, and that I’ve picked up a few gray cells along the way during my travels.

So, for today, my boat is holding water. Yay. Hope yours is doing the same. Until next time. Have a great hump day. I do love autumn.

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Hamburgers are on the menu for dinner tonight at our house. You can pretty much gauge my mood by what I’ve got planned for the evening meal. Right at the top of my comfort food list you would find in bold capital letters and underlined, “cheeseburgers”. Funny isn’t it, how comforting food can be? Perhaps that’s why so many people in the country are overweight? Being handed a bowl of hot chili in the winter, is like being offered a warm blanket on a frigid night. Food is the obvious solution for so many problems to my mind. Your boss is an idiot? A Kit-Kat will make it all better. Your husband ran off with the cleaning lady? Wolf down an entire bag of double dip Oreos and that will mend a few holes in that broken heart. If we’re not eating away our problems, we are numbing them into submission with alcohol or drugs. It’s the American way. Let’s face it, none of us want to feel the pain in our lives, particularly when it becomes oppressive. So much easier to drown our misery in a caramel frapucinno or bury it in a couple of oversized tubs of brownie batter ice cream. I know for me, simply saying the words “I’ll have four number three’s please, oversize it” into a microphone, makes a bad day feel better. Easy peasy. Please believe me, there’s no finger pointing going on here on my part, simply making some observations. Why do you think cheeseburgers and home made fries are on my menu tonight? My hands are definitely not clean, if you get what I’m sayin.

Believe me I am hardly one to talk. I am a good pusher of feelings. Push, push, push. It wasn’t until things were spinning out of control in my early thirties, I realized this method of handling my innermost turmoil, was not proving to be an effective way to manage my life. Now, I didn’t exactly come to this conclusion on my own during an epiphany over my cheese omelet. Noticing my life was taking on water, and the boat slowly sinking, I sent up a distress signal. This resulted in me soliciting the help of a wonderful therapist who guided me through some of the rougher currents. With her assistance, I began to figure out why, though I was paddling really hard, I wasn’t finding my way to the shore. I hope you didn’t get seasick with all those ocean analogies. Please understand, going through that soul discovering journey does not mean I found all the answers to my problems. Not even close. I work on plugging up the holes every day (Sorry, I can’t seem to help myself today.). It only means, I took the time to stop and take a look at what I was doing, rather than just doing, and began to explore which behaviors worked for me and those I needed to cut loose and allow to move away from me. As I’ve said many times, I am a creature of many flaws. The difference being, now I can examine my flaws daily and manage to love myself anyhow, and have learned to make friends with these dents in my armor. Along with my finer qualities, these less desirable traits are an integral part of the whole that makes me who I am.

Though I may still enjoy a good juicy cheeseburger with all the trimmings when my life is threatening to overwhelm me, I try also to deal with what is on my plate, aside from consuming the perfectly seasoned ground beef. This isn’t always easy for me. For example, in the last two months four boils have risen up one after another on the lower half of my face. Fortunately, we are wearing mask, so no young children have been traumatized by these events. Also, thanks to a good dose of antibiotics, my facial features have returned to their pre-eruption smooth landscape. Whew. I am not subject to boils as a norm. However, skin, being the largest organ, as well as one we can see, it is often the first to reflect signs of stress in our bodies. Though stress definitely effects all organs in our body, skin is the only one where the effects become immediately obvious. When I was going through a particularly angst filled time with an ex-husband, I ended up with psoriasis over 70% of my body. Never had it before, nor have I experienced it since. It took me a year of light treatments, nightly soakings, a myriad of creams and prescriptions, and releasing the ex-husband, to right that ship. Not boarding that cruise again, so deal with my feelings I must and will do. Dramamine anyone?

Yesterday began like a Monday, and continued to behave like one all the way through the day. At 8:00 I showed up at the DMV to complete my application for my California ID. There are extensions in place for getting this done in place due to Covid, but I like to move things off my to-do list as quickly as possible, that way I don’t have to think about them. On the DMV website it was suggested you make an appointment. Right. You click on “yes, make an appointment” and are redirected back to “yes, make an appointment”. Fine. So, I completed my application, gathered the necessary supporting paperwork, put a bottle of water in my purse and headed to the DMV with no appointment in place. The seats were fairly occupied but there were several in the back with no one seated directly next to them. Everyone was wearing a masks except one couple. There is always one in the crowd. Also there was one guy who had a mask on, but it was pulled underneath his chin. I haven’t read the CDC guidelines word for word, but I don’t believe this is the suggested way to wear one. Just sayin.

My number was G12. The PA voice was calling G01 when I sat down. Didn’t seem like too long of a wait, but that was before I discovered there were “B” people waiting as well as “G” people. K. All about letters and numbers at the DMV it would seem. About an hour later, my number was getting close to the starting gate. The “G” man before me totally lost it with a clerk about a registration snafu with regard to his mother’s car. I know this, because he was yelling loud enough to trigger a car alarm in the parking lot. After enjoying a meltdown any two year old could have been proud off, he tore his mask off, threw it on the ground, and stomped out of the building throwing all his paperwork up in the air on the way out the door. We all watched as the papers floated to the ground, nobody saying a word, as if this is what one does when exiting the building. Love human nature. Fascinating really. “Next.” Oh, that would be me. I had to produce my actual green card. My name is listed on my immigration card with my middle name, as that is what is required by their office. All good. However, my driver’s license has only the initial. Apparently the DMV system didn’t like this, so it kept spitting out the application. Forty-five minutes later, it finally decided M was a good enough equivalent for Maureen and we were off to the races. Sigh. Next, the clerk had me stand in front of a blue screen to have my picture taken. She told me to smile, so I did. It won’t matter, I will still look like a felon when my card arrives, but what the heck, I’ll play. Holding the smile for what seemed like fifteen minutes, my lips were beginning to get stiff. Relaxing for a moment, I asked if we were done. Exactly at that moment, the flash went off. Should be an interesting shot. Anyhow, done and done.

Before leaving the house to go to the DMV, I changed the sheets on both beds. Love clean sheet day. There’s nothing like climbing into clean sheets after a long hard day, particularly if they were hung on the line to dry. Nobody does that anymore, I don’t think. When I was growing up, my grandmother always hung her sheets out “to get some fresh air” during the summer months. Coming home this morning with my California ID mission completed, I went in my bedroom to change and get on with the business of the day. Dead center in the middle of my freshly clean blanket was a huge mass of ewwwwww. At first I thought it to be some sort of creature that had possibly crawled up there after meeting a nasty end, but on closer inspection, I realized it was, in fact, a hair ball. Ewwwww, again, and it had friends. Friends on the pillow, friends on the carpet. Sigh. Last week I had taken Boo to the vet to be checked out for a suspected UTI (Urinary Tract Infection). They gave her a shot of a long lasting antibiotic that works on 65% of animals. Leave it to Boo, she has to be an over achiever, she obviously ranks among the unworkable 35%. The next step would be a urinalysis, and a culture. Those babies amount to $325 and change. She’s my cat, and I love her, so, of course, I’m going to do pay the ransom, but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to complain while I’m writing the check. Sooooooo, I called the vet and made an appointment for Boo to get further evaluated, then stripped the bed and threw the sheets back in the washer. Monday, Monday…….can’t trust that day. Go, Cass. That woman knew something.

Finally settling in with a soothing cup of chamomile tea, I picked up the stack of mail I’d brought in earlier. Second envelope in the pile had printed clearly in the left hand corner in bold letters “Internal Revenue Service”. It was addressed to my mother at this address. I believe I mentioned some blogs ago I was doing a couple of rounds with them over some unfiled tax returns of my mother’s. I spent $600 to get everything straightened out months ago, refiling the missing years. Before I opened this letter, I considered just burning it and not bothering to look at the document inside. The better side of me voted to go ahead and take a peek. Remind me not to get my better side her pumpkin spice latte next time she asks for a treat as we pass a Starbuck’s. Damn. After all the trouble my tax accountant and I went to, it was yet another demand letter for thousands of dollars which my mother doesn’t owe printed on half a ream of paper. Wow. Don’t they have more to do than to hound an elderly woman with dementia on hospice who’s only income is Social Security? I could give them a few leads to follow that would guarantee a much more satisfying end result. Let’s see Trump, Bezos, come to mind. Gets my Irish up.

So, Monday was a bit of a wash. Tuesday seems to be shaping up to look much better, but it’s early yet. We are all praying for our beautiful Lake Tahoe. Please put your good energy in the pile for the people living there and the glorious lake and landscape surrounding it. That gorgeous piece of California/Nevada real estate is now under siege by the Caldor Fire. So much of this lovely state has been devastated by the incessant and relentless fires, and fire season is just getting warmed up.

Keeping your chin up lately seems to require two men and a ladder. Have a great Tuesday.

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Last night I found my eyes open around 2:30. Willing them shut, I laid on one side, then I laid on the other. Pause, and repeat. Deciding to try my back as a last resort, this precipitated a tug of war with the cat over my pillow. Finally, I ran the white flag up the flagpole about 3:00 and with no sleep in sight, turned on the light. There really isn’t a long list of things needed doing at this time of night, so I picked up the remote and switched the TV on. How is it, one wonders, I can have 500+ available channels at my disposal, and I can’t find one I want to watch? If the regular television fare doesn’t catch my eye, I can always switch to my fire stick and open up a whole new batch of viewing possibilities with the push of a button. Yet, I couldn’t find one thing making me want to stop at the title and look any further. Sigh. Finally, I hit on the latest version of Jane Eyre. I do love the classics, in particular period pieces. The story of the governess and the lord of the manor, of love lost and love found, always haunts me in the telling of it. Plumping up the pillows, I settled in with Boo to once again lose myself in Bronte’s bewitching tale. Imagine writing a piece so timeless. First published in 1847, it has been made and remade over the years and still holds me captive to this day in it’s spell.

Aside from dark gothic tales, I also enjoy a good comedy. Where have all the really funny comedies disappeared to I wonder? If they are out there I can’t find them. I find I have to go back decades to dig one up that really makes me LOL. Maybe it is that the great comediennes capable of producing audible belly laughs in their audiences are gone? John Carrey, Robin Williams, Gilda Radner, Madeline Kahn, to name but a few. I have watched a couple of Madeline Kahn favorites during the pandemic dark days. Those days when there wasn’t much to do but stay home and watch my roots grow out. Always I enjoy Young Frankenstein, but one of my favorites wis “What’s Up Doc” also notably starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal. When I catch some of the older titles from Goldie Hawn’s hayday, “Seems Like Old Times” or “Foul Play” I tape them to watch on days where my chin is dragging more so than usual. Tom Hanks did some great flicks too. The first time I saw “Money Pit” my ribs hurt from laughing all the way through it.

I’m feeling a bit like a duck out of water of late. Even though I have both vaccinations circulating through my body I haven’t totally picked up the pace I had before the pandemic swept in and changed our lives. Is it possible I’m looking for a little escape with my remote, when instead I should be beginning to rebuild the bricks of my life and resume actually living it again? Likely so. I still haven’t gone out to lunch with friends, which is on my calendar for next week, but I am taking a trip to visit my son in May. This will be my first real push on the accelerator in over a year. Yay. It is always an adventure visiting their house. They have a combined family, including five children between the ages of eleven and twenty. As one might imagine, there are not a lot of quiet moments under that roof. This is probably just the accelerant I need to get my motor fired up again.

My mind keeps telling me “baby steps, girl”. I have to remind myself when I lose patience with me, I do not need to run out and climb Mt. Shasta before the weekend in order to getting myself back on track again. “Ease into it slowly”, my innermost guide encourages, but never been a baby step person, this is a learning curve for me. I’ve always climbed in the pot, then turned the temperature up to boil, and waited to see what happened. In truth, I would love to find myself prone on a beach towel on a lovely white sand beach somewhere gloriously tropical with a drink with an umbrella sitting next to me smelling like coconut sun tan lotion. That, would be the space that would soothe my soul. Since that is not happening, either today or in the near future, I need to find something else to lift my spirits up.

One thing not perking my spirits up is that extremely annoying woman telling me my car warranty has run out, who calls endlessly on my phone. I block one number and she calls on a new one. One more of those and my phone is going to end up at the bottom of the commode with bubbles floating out of it. Will they not stop!! Why are these robo callers not regulated better? Yesterday, I got two warranty calls which were then trumped by a third call saying my Social Security account had been hacked. This morning, an email came through informing me my Amazon account had been compromised and closed. Neither, of course, which is true. Sigh. A reporter on the local news was talking this morning about scams involving unemployment as well as the recent stimulus payments, in particular targeting older citizens. People with no conscience apparently are willing to prey on vulnerable or defenseless people under any circumstance, no matter how dire. Sad. No wonder I’m looking for a good comedy.

I would retire from the human race and run with a band of orangutans (I don’t know why, I just love them) was it not for the stories on the opposite side of the pole relating acts of kindness and extreme generosity performed by people in our society not just looking out for their own interests. These types of stories serve to remind me for as many low-life bottom feeders as there are wandering the globe, the scales are still balanced by genuinely kind and good hearted beings on the opposite side. Hope, as they say, springs eternal. I saw a story yesterday about a dog who was abandoned by his owner. The animal was left on his front porch with no food or water to fend for himself. Disgusting. Then, he was found, taken in, and adopted by a family who were so excited to have him since their family dog had recently died and the children devastated. In an instant, the bad story flipped like a pancake on the griddle, into a good story making me abandon my orangutan escape plan for another time. I am, however, holding on it to it in case I need to pull that card further down the road.

Today I am planting vegetables in my garden. Thankfully, the wind has died down for a day or two allowing me a window of opportunity to get out and dig in the soil. The sun will give me a little endorphin rush as well as, hopefully, amping up my Vitamin D supply which, along with many others trapped inside for so long, seems to be sadly diminished. There is something about working with plants and dirt that boosts my spirits and makes me whole again. Perhaps it is that we come from dirt and to dirt we return, to get a bit Biblical or that it’s just a visceral experience. Whatever the case may be, I am doing it, albeit a bit late this year. One thing good about this yard, as opposed to the yard in my previous residence, is that it is fenced. Most critters, other than an occasional squirrel or a wandering cat, don’t bother my plants.

When I was living in West Virginia around 1990-93, I had a huge garden. We rented a lovely house while there with a large yard and a planting area already cultivated when we moved in. Sticks with seed packets lined up in the neat rows that first spring after we planted, and a bumper crop of okra (for my husband), cucumbers, all manner of peppers, zucchini and tall rows of the sweetest corn could be seen before summer stole the show. West Virginia, in spite of what some might think, is a beautiful state to live in. “The Mountain State” boasts verdant pasture lands, and as it’s name would imply there is not a shortage of mountainous terrain across the state. The Appalachian Mountains are the dominant range in the territory, with three or four lesser mountains joining them for company. West Virginia holds the distinction of having more mountainous areas than any other state in the union. My ex-husband and I spent many weekends exploring the state, actually getting married the first year we moved there. Part of the Bible Belt, West Virginians take their religion seriously. When we applied for our marriage license and tried to find a place for the ceremony, it became quickly clear finding a church to marry us we were not affiliated with was going to be a sticky situation. Not wanting something more impersonal like a justice of the peace, we finally located a church run by recovering addicts and alcoholics willing to have a service for us. They were the loveliest group of people. I can imagine there were some serious demons being fought under that roof, but all in all, they welcomed us into the fold. We had to attend three services in a row in order to be able to get married, so we showed up that first Sunday and the two following. The man sitting next to me was wearing a bandana on his head and wore a Grateful Dead tee-shirt. That being said, he was very friendly and sang loudly during the hymns, returning all the responses to the minister as she gave the prompts. Interestingly enough, the church musical accompaniment was a rock band who performed at local bars and events. The six members included a keyboardist, a long haired rocker on electric guitar, and a drummer who looked disturbingly like Meat Loaf, the singer not the Sunday dinner variety. It was an experience I had never had during church services before that day, nor have I replicated since. The couple who would be standing up for us were Southern Baptist. I believe this was more than a stretch for their religious upbringing, but they did it with good hearts and tried not to wince when the band began to play Stairway to Heaven immediately following the vows. All in all, it was a lovely service with many of the church members joining us afterwards at the reception.

Often I think about my times in St. Albans. I saw my first firefly there. While washing dishes, I looked out my window into my back yard to see the entire fence along the periphery of my yard resplendent with blinking insects doing their mating dance. I do wish sometimes we had them here, but at least I shared their experience for a time.

Life is one block piled atop the next. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to see beyond the state line. Each state I’ve made my home in has left something of it’s culture and people with me.

TGIF!!! Stay safe.

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