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Archive for the ‘anxiety’ Category

It’s been a week this week, I have to say. Yesterday morning my IPhone froze up. For over an hour I followed instructions to unfreeze the damnable device producing no change whatsoever in the screen. I can’t be without a phone at the moment, and this one is relatively new. Finally, totally frustrated, I got in the car and drove the twenty or so minutes to the nearest dealer to have them take a look at it. I walked in the door, explained the situation to the clerk at the front desk, handed my device to a kid who looked to be in middle school, and with the flick of one thumb and two fingers “voila” the phone released the screen. Really? The gods are angry.

At least it is at last September. The days are marching forward in a steady rythm towards fall. I cannot tell you how ready I am for autumn, and all that season promises this year. I already have a few fall touches sprinkled about the house by way of a welcome mat for my favorite season. There is a bit of melancholy attached to fall creeping up so quickly. Before long all the beautiful colors decorating the landscape, the pumpkin lattes, and artistically carved jack-o-lanterns grinning on people’s stoops will have come and gone. I am feeling this way as I approach the end of this difficult year, I believe, because I have become weary of saying goodbye.

This has been a stressful couple of years, I have to say. Dale and I have spent a lot of time together the last year and a half, partly due to Covid and partly to the fact he has lung cancer. Though he doesn’t let his prognosis overrun him, with oxygen equipment all around and medicine containers, you can’t help but notice the elephant in the room every day when you wake up. When you think about sharing company with someone dealing with a terminal illness, several adjectives probably immediately come to mind….. depressing, sad, exhausting. Surprisingly there are many other adjectives of a positive nature that apply as well…..tender, compassionate, warm. Don’t misunderstand me, for I don’t want to misrepresent the experience, it can be all the darker adjectives and a bag of chips on some days. However, there is another, perhaps lighter side to it, people don’t often talk about. Along with all the deep emotions involved in losing a loved one, there is also the gift the person dying gives to the people they ask to share their last journey. The sweet gift of allowing someone you love to accompany you on your final days on this plateau. At the beginning of your travels with someone facing such a challenge, you will walk side by side. As the disease progresses, however, you will reach a crossroad. When at the fork in the road, you will continue on to wherever your destiny is to lead you, and the person transitioning will stay on their path to complete the final lap of their trip alone. Dying is an integral part of life. If we looked at death more directly instead of being afraid to say the word out loud or speak of it, perhaps we would be able to approach it with more easily with grace and dignity. Let’s face it, thus far none of us have gotten a hall pass to avoid it, so perhaps it would be better to accept, even embrace it.

Though the situation Dale is currently dealing with tends to pervade our lives, it’s amazing how resilient the human spirit can be. We still find plenty of time to catch a favorite movie, sit outside under the umbrella in the yard and watch the grass grow, and now that we can, spend time with our vaccinated friends and family. I say that not as an arrow directed at the hearts of those who still choose not to get the vaccine, but because Dale is definitely compromised when it comes to health issues. Being around someone who possibly could transmit the virus to him would be unwise. The beginning of the week we had a friend stop by to spend a couple of hours. She texted me not long after she’d left to tell me driving home from her shopping trip, she could see a huge plume of smoke billowing up behind the hills near where we live. As we were speaking, I began to hear planes flying overhead and sirens in the distance. Oh-oh. Sure enough, a fire was brewing and neighborhoods in our general area were being evacuated situated closer to the origin of the blaze. Sometimes it feels like it never rains but it pours. I’d like a rainbow or two thrown in for good measure. I’m just saying. While I was packing up the trunk of the car as a precaution, I thought once again, “the gods really must be angry”.

Maybe there’s some truth to that? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if our creator or creators, however you believe, aren’t particularly pleased with how we’ve been handling ourselves recently. We’re not exactly behaving like kind, compassionate beings. Turn on the news for an hour or so, to remind yourself how true that statement is.

On the good news side of the page, since I wrote the paragraph about a fire brewing, the blaze, thanks to the continuing efforts of firefighters keeping us safe all over the state, has since been contained. Another “whew” moment for us living here in the north state. No structures or lives lost is always a good days work. Continuing with that positive note, I woke up in the middle of the night night before last to the sweet song of rain drumming on the roof. Wow. It has been so long since I’ve heard that, I almost didn’t recognize the sound. Got up the following morning and took a long walk just to grab a lungful of the sweet fresh air outside my window. There really is nothing to compare with the smell of the earth after it has been soaked with a good dose of rain.

This morning, I actually have the windows open in the house. A lovely cross breeze is flowing in through the screens. Between the smoke and my allergies, I haven’t been able to open them in a while. PG&E will undoubtedly be sending us a thank you letter for keeping them afloat with our energy consumption this summer. Yesterday marked the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. Seems as though it was so much more recent than that. For most of us, I’m sure what we were doing the exact moment we got the news of the events unfolding on that day has become permanently etched in our memory banks. I know for me it has. I was at work, standing in the conference room with a large group of co-workers standing in front of the TV. We watched in disbelief as one unreal image after another appeared on the screen. No one spoke really, other than an occasional “oh my, God” or “oh no”. When the realization of what had just happened on U.S. soil sank in, most of us filtered out the doors and went home for the day. There was no point in trying to work with those images fresh in our minds. Driving down the freeway I remember tears sliding down my cheeks. So many lives were instantly changed in those moments. My daughter-in-law, who’s birthday falls on September 11th, said that her birthday was changed forever for her with all the memories attached to it after the Twin Towers fell. I’m sad to say we lost her as well recently due to an unfortunate accident. So, I remembered her as well, and am thankful for the two beautiful grandchildren she left behind for me to share time with.

It is not an easy planet right now. Not that the earth has ever really rested completely comfortably because, in the end, it is a globe populated with human beings replete with all their foibles and missteps. Perhaps 9/11 is a day to remember how much we have to be thankful for, and be reminded in the end we’re all trying to survive as best we can and not as different from one another as it might sometimes appear.

Have a great day. Remember those who bravely went in to help and never came out, those who were in the buildings that fell, and those amazing passengers who brought down the second plane before it could reach the intended target. Bless them all and bless us as we move forward. We are left behind as caretakers of this glorious planet and I believe we need to step up and do a far better job.

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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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Sometimes I think our devices are more trouble then they’re worth. My new phone, though I love it, can be really annoying at times. For example, I had the phone sitting in front of me recently and was engaged in a discussion with someone in the room about the weather. Suddenly, my phone lit up and displayed a link to to an APP for making weather tracking easier. Siri, it appears, was listening. Siri is always listening. If she had a cup pressed up against our walls, she couldn’t be gathering more information about our lives. I just hope she isn’t watching. I’m just saying.

The other day while seated in the movie theater, the flashlight on my phone turned itself on without any encouragement from me. For some reason, no matter what I tried, including putting in a request to the ever present Siri, it refused to turn off. I wrestled with it so long, an usher finally came to the aisle and asked if something was wrong. Explaining the situation to him, he suggested turning the phone off. Oh. Embarrassing. Have to give it to that kid, he resisted what I suspect was his first impulse, rolling his eyes. The fun part of that sentence is, I was in a movie theater. It’s been some time since I’ve ventured into one, and have to say I really enjoyed it. The theater we chose is one of those with the incredibly comfortable chairs where you can pre-select your seats. The seating chart on the website allows you to see what seats have already been purchased, so we chose three seats in a section away from the majority of the people, and it worked out perfectly. You might ask, why would we do that when Dale, dealing with cancer, is obviously someone not needing to be exposed to a precarious health situation where the virus might be lurking. After weighing the pros and cons involved with taking a chance and going, and following all the necessary measures to ensure he was well protected, the best answer would have to be, “because he really wanted to go”. We have all been vaccinated and he and I have survived the virus, we wore masks and we kept far away from the other movie goers. He has a lot on his bucket list to accomplish and we want to make sure he crosses some of those items off as the disease progresses. In the end, no matter what the circumstance, I believe it is better to live your life as fully as you can, while you can, and never sit around passing time waiting for life to happen to you. Life is very whimsical. Truth is, feeling secure about tomorrow in many ways is only an illusion. So many things can come along in a twenty-four hour period capable of totally changing the direction you are currently heading. While tucked away in your bed a tree could fall on your roof, a runaway car could come flying through your bedroom wall, or a poisonous spider could plant a mouthful of fatal venom in your behind. There are no guarantees on what tomorrow will look like, so best to do what you can when you can. Not to be depressing, but the reality is we, as living beings, are marching steadily towards dying, from the day we draw our first breath. So, without being irresponsible or stupid about what you are doing, I think it is important to live with the most verve that you can each day you are here. Expect the unexpected. That is my mantra, and I’m giving it my best shot. I may have a tee shirt made.

Speaking of making tee shirts, I believe that will be my next project. Several months ago, I had some demo shirts printed of my various designs. I wore several of them around town to see if that elicited any comments or reactions from people I interacted with. Happily they did. So far, the feedback has been positive, which gives me incentive to move forward with my plans. Definitely within the next year, I need to come us with something to generate some extra income. I don’t want to go back to a regular job, but would rather pursue something that captures my imagination. It’s a weird time for me, as I’m sure it is for many of us, and I need to find my joy and center myself once again.

Another unexpected occurrence, though not really a surprise with the drought and lack of rain of late, was there was yet another fire in my old neighborhood this week. The unexpected part of that statement, is not that there was a fire, but that is was the second to pop up in that many weeks, and closer to the town itself. Friends of mine were evacuated, making me thankful yet one more time, I made the decision to sell my house in the mountains and move down to the valley. Also, made me most grateful those who were evacuated were able to return to their homes today thanks to the wonderful firefighters getting the fire quickly under control. These firefighters are amazing. Our unsung heroes. They get out on the fire lines weighed down by layers of heavy protective gear, work in unbearable heat, and battle these dangerous blazes until the last ember is extinguished. Because I have some understanding from the footage I see on TV of what they must be enduring, I try not to complain too much about the smoke in the air. Hard to work up a good whine, when I am safely inside with the A/C running and my air purifier cranking away in the corner.

Life is in such disarray these days, I keep my mind off things by enjoying pleasant daydreams of moving to a lovely cottage by the shore. In my minds eye, I can picture the interior of the building with French doors opening up onto a bright and sunny deck. I see sheer curtains blowing in the gentle sea breeze at one of the many windows, each providing a view of the glistening sea beyond the deck. Each morning waking up to the calling of the gulls and the peaceful heartbeat of the ocean as it moves in and back across the sand. Ahhhhhh. In this cottage in one corner where the light is perfect, I would set up an easel, with all my drawing tools arranged on trays around it. The kitchen would have an oval pan rack hanging over a generous center workspace, and in the bedroom, there would be a wood stove and a comfy overstuffed bed with lots of brightly colored pillows and throws tossed across it for settling in with an excellent book. They say if you imagine it long enough ……

What’s interesting, to me at least, about these daydreams, is I have never verbalized them to anyone. Well, at least, until the paragraph above, which I wrote yesterday. Up until I hit publish on this blog, they have remained only sweet, wistful wishes floating about in my brain as I’ve been going through my day. Oddly enough, however, after writing the paragraph, essentially giving the thoughts life, I have begun to be inundated with pictures of beautiful homes by the sea on my social media pages. Siri really is good. Not only can she see you and hear you, but apparently she can also feel you. Someone posted an array of pictures featuring a gorgeous home on Prince Edward Island. How I would love to visit there one of these days. The home was Victorian in style with modern flourishes. The aerial view of the property showed the ocean not far from where the house was located. The inside was immaculate and impeccably decorated. The huge well-appointed kitchen literally made me salivate on my new “If you can’t find the sunshine, be the sunshine” tee shirt. I’m spreading the word. There were numerous bedrooms and bathrooms, a great room, a formal living and dining room, a large laundry room and a myriad of other enticing amenities. All that house on a large chunk of ocean front land and they were asking $386,000 and change. Wow. This house I’m currently occupying is under 1,200 square feet. If you turn around in one room you might find yourself entering another. In California the market value for this home runs close to $500,000. There is no garage, mind you, and the grounds, though not postage stamp size, are most certainly not what you’d advertise as acreage. If you wish to get an ocean view from here, it will necessitate getting in your car and driving four hours west.

My “wishcraft” as Rick was always calling it, seems to be on the money of late. I think about something I would like to happen, and before long it seems to materialize. I believe my receptors somehow either got a good cleaning with all the high wind passing through our area, or that knock on the head I got last week when someone left the cupboard door open (no names shall be mentioned), shook something loose over the hair line. Rick often hinted I should use some of my pseudo magic powers to work the numbers on the lottery or the Keno cards in Vegas. I don’t think it’s that kind of magic. If it was, I would throw a spell in Dale’s direction to reverse the cancer and rewrite the end of that story. Unfortunately, we are where we are. Watching him begin to fail, brings up a lot of memories for me of when Rick was at a similar stage. Though they both were diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, it has manifested itself differently in both men. Thankfully, at least so far, there has been discomfort, but little pain. I hope that will remain the case. In this way, the cancer experience for both men has similarities. For those dealing with lung cancer, from my experience, it is all about the breathing. Being an asthmatic, I totally empathize with that feeling of being unable to gather a breath. It is very scary, triggering the bodies fear mechanisms and creating much anxiety. There are so many synchronizations between these two men in my life. Same diagnosis, same doctor. It’s weird, but then my life tends to run along a weird and peculiar vein. People ask how we’re dealing. Hard to answer that question. We’re dealing. One step in front of the other. Deep breaths, I say, and then we soldier on. All you can do really. We throw in lots of hugs, and many laughs and pour in a large helping of hope and make the best of a bad situation.

On the subject of soldiering, I want to stop here to acknowledge the fallen men and women in Afghanistan. Like our firefighters, these brave people are responsible for depending our citizens and those in foreign lands, and sacrifice so much to keep us safe. I will never understand war. The cost will always be too much, in my estimation, to ever justify the gains expected to be achieved by engaging in it. Watching what is going on overseas, does solidify my feeling of gratefulness at being fortunate enough to live in a country that welcomes freedom. I guess I don’t think anymore, as I have logged a few years on this planet, that anything is really totally free. As with the balance in all things, for what you receive, something is generally given up in kind to keep the scales in check. However, I am viewing my blessings today, and trying not to dwell on those things that make my heart heavy.

The winds are up outside this morning. The air is supposed to get better as the day progresses so my plants and flowers in my unhappily neglected garden will be thankful to get some much needed oxygen and water. Have a safe and grateful day.

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A rapidly moving fire broke out in my old neighborhood several days ago. Many people I know either had to be evacuated, or were at the very least, in danger of having to leave their homes. Though everyone is doing okay, people in the next town over from them are surveying the damage, many returning home to find nothing remaining but ashes. I am feeling very grateful this morning to be down in the valley. A picture popped up on Facebook when the evacuations were in progress, taken by someone located about three miles from Dale’s trailer. Huge plumes of smoke were visible billowing up on the hillside. His trailer is still parked up on the lot he occupied before coming to stay my house. As of this writing, it is still standing, but it was a close call. His direct neighbor, though their house is still in place, can’t return home with their seven animals because all the power lines are down and there is no electricity. Though I’ve never experienced having to live in a war torn country, sometimes these fire ruled summers feel a bit like I might imagine it, though obviously to a far lesser degree.

Though the local fire appears to be under control, we woke up this morning to find the the air full of smoke in our neighborhood. This smoke has blown in from another blaze much farther north of us that is still very active. It used to be I loved the breeze, finding it peaceful to watch the movement of grass on the lawn, or to hear the leaves rustling in the trees. Now, it is a signal of danger, as the brush in California is bone dry, there is no water in our reservoirs, and there are not enough fire personnel to fight these mammoth blazes once they erupt. Again, PG&E’s dirty hands are involved in the fire bringing us the smoke. A tree fell against one of their lines. Everybody is busy poking fingers at everyone else. Each summer it gets a little worse, but what to do?

We are stuck inside so are making the best of it. A technician came this morning to fix our internet connection to our cable. Recently we had to replace a box and it threw everything else out of alignment. Literally, I spent hours climbing around in the snakes nest of cords behind our large flat screen trying to address the problem. One phone tech after another rebooted on their end, walked me through progressive steps on my end, and to no avail. I connected, disconnected, located yellow wires, and red. I should get paid the big bucks and do this for a living. I’m getting pretty good at it. This time, I just couldn’t figure it out. Finally, I threw in the towel and asked them to send somebody out. What a nice guy. I pay a fee every month for maintenance on their equipment. If I didn’t have that connected to my account, I would have had to pay $100 for the privilege of having a repairman on the premises. He performed his magic in about a half an hour and now the TV and internet are working perfectly. I took the time to text a great review when prompted on my phone. When somebody goes above and beyond I think it’s important to acknowledge them.

I’m not the greatest person to watch TV with. Since the day I was born, I seem to have an over abundance of energy. Have to say Covid took care of that situation for about a month leaving me listless and without juice, but my energy level has returned to optimum speed of late. When I sit and stare at a flat screen, I have to be doing something else with my hands. If I don’t occupy myself, it won’t be long before my head is thrown back against the pillow and I’m sucking in air. Just the way it is. My theory is that I burn at such high octane most of the day, when I actually slow down and relax, like my laptop, my body goes into sleep mode. Fortunately, I am able to “power nap” as I call it. When I was working full time I used to sneak in a quick nap during lunch time on occasion. Behind my desk, I kept a small camping mattress. After I’d eaten, I’d close the door to my office, and take a 15 minute siesta. Somehow, I am able to set my internal clock to the time I need, and my mind sends out a wake up call when the elapsed time has passed. Weird, but then a lot of things about me are a little off bubble.

Thinking about plopping down on the floor on an air mattress doesn’t sound that inviting anymore. I prefer my nice soft mattress, and some fluffy pillows. Camping, I believe, though never say never, is intertwined in my past stories, not my future. However, one never knows what new stories you are going to find when you turn the next page. I’m open to new adventures every day. My son and his brood just posted pictures of them parachuting. He asked if I’d be interested in jumping out of a plane next time they go. That would be a negatory. They would have to pry my white knuckled hands off the door handle and knock me out with a baseball bat first. I am planning on zip lining. It is quite near the top of my bucket list. Not as adventurous to some, I would imagine, but it works just nicely for me. Someone asked if I would be interested in zip lining over the Grand Canyon. Um, again, that would be negatory. I don’t have a death wish, but wouldn’t mind injecting a little excitement in my life. Also, I would like to go white water rafting again. My first time was amazing, and I would sign up enthusiastically to experience that rush again.

In my twenties, I went camping regularly. Young bones don’t mind sleeping on the ground as much as older bones do I’ve found. We would pitch a tent, throw a sleeping bag on the ground, and sleep peacefully 8-10 hours. Please. Now, I have the most comfortable mattress in the world, and if I’m lucky enough to log seven hours of sleep on it, I throw a party. One of my favorite places to camp, specifically boat camp, was Cottonwood Cove on the Colorado River. You couldn’t ask for a more perfect setting to be outdoors. Pictures of the area are imprinted in my mind as if I’d stepped on shore there only yesterday. In the morning we would cook over a Coleman stove. There really is nothing to quite equal the aroma of bacon cooking outdoors. The water, that time of day, unless the weather was less than perfect, was pristine. Skiing across it was effortless, with no push back on your feet like you experience in choppy water. It was like skiing over a sheet of glass. That was my favorite time of the day to go.

Usually we set up camp several miles down river from the marina. There wasn’t much out there but gorgeous scenery, scrub brush, and sparkling river water. Being resourceful, and with no facilities where we were, we constructed a makeshift toilet. The toilet was dubbed “Lou” appropriately. Lou was a lawn chair with the webbing on the seat removed. One of the men had cut out an oval in the center of a piece of wood and placed a toilet seat and lid in the hole. Both were attached to the seat of the chair. A small shovel hung from a chain next to one arm. You get the idea. They had even thought of adding a side pocket where a newspaper and puzzle were available for those who like to linger a while after a big meal. Each person dug a hole, did what they needed to do, covered same and moved Lou to a new location. Very efficient.

There were so many sights to see on the Colorado. While visiting I saw owls, mountain goats, wild donkeys, eagles soaring overhead, all manner of lizards and even a snake or two. Midday the heat moved in with intensity. We would either sit in the shade on the bank, or take our lawn chairs into the water and submerge ourselves up to our necks to cool off. Fish would come and nip at the air bubbles on our bathing suits through the webbing on our chairs, which at first was a rather odd sensation. The women never took any makeup. The only cosmetic needed was sunscreen. You definitely needed to lather up. Back then we didn’t have as much knowledge as we do now about the dangers of tanning. I have paid for my years gathering rays with having many pre-cancers removed as time has passed. Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20. Also, if you tended to burn rather than tan you needed to find a place in the shade, because even sunscreen couldn’t fully protect you from a bad sunburn when exposed out there.

One weekend we sank a boat while on the river. The beautiful ski boat, picked up brand new on a Friday night, was gathering moss at the bottom of the river two days later. Thankfully, those of us on board were all safe. There were three boats with us that ill fated weekend. The first day there, the weather was perfect. Waking up the second morning, however, the sky had turned grey. The wind picked up enough so that we had trouble keeping the tent stakes anchored. Deciding to wait it out until the following morning, when we woke up the sky looked positively menacing. Determining the best course of action was to break camp and head back to the marina. The first two boats headed up river before us, while we tore down the remaining campsite and loaded what gear was left behind. The wind had picked up to an alarming pitch and it was becoming difficult to hear one another in between gusts. My daughter, eight at the time, myself, my fiance, two friends and their young daughter, piled into the boat and pushed off. Once out on the water it felt more like being on a rough ocean, than a peaceful stretch of river. The boat rode up and over waves and pitched down the slope on the other side. Still moving forward, we appeared to be making some progress, when the engine swamped. This left us freely floating in the waves. Before long water began to enter the boat over the sides. Seeing things were headed for a bad end, I straddled the bow of the boat with one leg on either side to balance myself, and began waving a white towel I had found under the seat in the air. Amazingly, I wasn’t tossed into the churning water. By this time the people in back seat were submerged up to their underarms. It became obvious without assistance, we were all going to be in the water shortly. The prow of a boat, a cabin cruiser riding so much higher out of the water than our low profile ski boat, suddenly came into view in the distance. By the time they reached us, the people in back seat were fully in the water and the bow of the boat was halfway pointing to vertical. The boat pulled up next to us. I handed off my daughter and the other little girl and was suddenly pitched into the waves. I can remember bobbing up and down like an ear of corn in a boiling pot of water out there. With each resurface, I’d take in more water, and my limbs were starting to get tired. A guitar floated by, belonging to my friend’s husband also in the water. He had had to knock his wife out, as she couldn’t swim, because she panicked and was drowning them both. At one point it seemed I was moving away not toward the rescue boat. Coming up one more time, an oar was being held out in front of me. I grabbed onto it, and at last helpful arms sucked me up out of the water. In the end we were all saved but the boat, which went down like a bag of rocks. All I had with me was the bathing suit and shorts I had on. My purse, my ID, my credit cards, my mother’s engagement ring all went down with the ship, so to speak. When I think of that experience I can’t help but remember those angels on that boat. They were the only ones out there in our area in that storm, and they told me they wouldn’t have known we were there, except they had seen the white towel. Guess it wasn’t our time to go.

Don’t think I’m going to be seeing that kind of excitement today. An eerie red sheen is pouring across my table and the sun looks more like a blood moon. So, I will entertain myself doing things I like to do and close out the outside for now. Have a safe day.

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I’ve been dealing with the IRS this morning. You might want to approach me with caution. OMG. The most frustrating people to deal with. This interaction is on behalf of my mother, actually, not for myself. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, I don’t make enough income at this stage in my life to have them sniffing around trying to catch hold of my scent.

At any rate, about six years ago I took mother’s documents to a tax preparer who told me I really didn’t need to file. It had something to do with the estate and how it was set up. Okay, one thing to tick off my to-do list always feels like cause for celebration. It’s enough for me to try and figure out my financial situation, but having her accounts as well as mine can really be a bag of snakes at times. All went along smoothly until last year. Let’s face it in 2020, if it could go wrong, it seemed to go right ahead and do exactly that. An envelope arrived mid-year addressed to my mother at my address on official IRS stationery. Oh-oh. Somehow they had deduced she owed $12,000 for one year of unfiled forms, and God knows how much else for the other five. After consulting my current tax accountant, he said we would just file the missing years and this would iron out all the wrinkles. Good, I do enjoy a nice crisp, unmessy life on occasion, so sign me up for that. Not so fast, you say. Last week I got another letter from the IRS, (they must have an official letter writer over there with nothing much pending on their calendar). This one said I needed to verify my mother’s identity before they could process the tax returns. “Yup, she’s my mom”, I said out loud. Apparently that wasn’t sufficient. I was instructed to either go into her on-line account and verify her identity, or an 800 number was provided for those people who didn’t use, or have access to, a computer.

To do a little back story here, my mother has never owned a computer. Well, to be specific, she owned one but never learned how to use it. It was her husbands while he was alive, and when he was gone she kept it so visitors or family could use it when visiting. Once I tried to teach her how to use a PC, but after ten or so lessons each time reexplaining how to power it on and off, the difference between portrait and landscape configuration, and the basics of using the mouse, I realized there wasn’t enough vodka in the stores to cover that particular endeavor. I suggested she enroll in a beginning computer skills class at a local adult school. When that too was a total bust, we left it to the gods to sort out. After that, I became her go-to computer person. Truth is, I fill that void for several of my technology challenged friends as well. I don’t mind. Keeps me off the streets. That being said, my mother surely did not have an on-line account, so I began the process of creating one for her. They required a number of documents to complete this process. Seeing this was going to be an all morning affair, I thought since it was early in the day I might try the 800 number to speed things along. Not. I waded patiently through the myriad of road blocks designed to make you hang up early on in the call, and finally was dropped into a queue and told to wait there for a representative. About twenty minutes into listening to their music, a new message came on informing me they had a high volume of calls and they were disconnecting me. I was told to call back tomorrow, or possibly next year. Thanks so much. In the letter a time line was indicated to get this process done, so back to Plan A. I once again navigated my way through their website and began the process of setting up an account for my mom. When I got to the password and username section, it took me twenty minutes on that page alone just to somehow select a password and username that fit with the parameters they’d outlined. You know the type, “Password must be 18 letters long. Choose one letter from the Arabic dictionary, one Hieroglyphic symbol, and two latin verbs, every other letter in each word must be capitalized.” Once I was done and mission accomplished, I was about two hours into it. This all for something that is generally a lot of bureaucratic nonsense. My mom is an elderly woman with dementia who has paid religiously over the years and worked hard, and doesn’t owe them a nickel from all accounts. Sigh. Amazing to me they waste all this paper, sweat, and manpower on someone like her when there are billionaires out there raking in huge amounts of cash who don’t pay their fair share of anything. Thank you for allowing me to get that off my chest.

I set aside the entire day for catching up on paperwork and other chores I have uncharacteristically been putting off. As I’ve mentioned before one of the pearls of wisdom my grandmother passed on to me was to do the things you least like doing first, then tackle the ones you either enjoy doing or at the very least don’t mind. That plan has been a very successful one for me. If I leave something floating around out there I am really not looking forward to doing, it hangs over my head and bothers me. If I do it, and get it over with, the rest seems so much easier.

Another unpleasant chore I decided to cross of my list, is studying for my drivers license renewal which is looming on the horizon. Even though I have been behind the wheel of a car since I was sixteen years old, I still get intimidated by the DMV. When they hand me that scroll of a test, my mind immediately forgets everything I do every day as habit when driving, and the questions look suddenly like they’re written in a foreign language. This time I have gone on line and downloaded a huge batch of “practice tests”. Some of the questions appear to be written purposely to trip you up. For instance, one of the questions asked was what a driver should do when passing a bicyclist who is riding in the lane next to you. One of the answers was “honk your horn before passing”. This, as it turns out, is the correct answer. Now, is it just me? If I was riding along minding my own business in the bike lane and some car came up behind me and blew his horn I most probably would end up either jamming on the brakes and catapulting over the handlebars or swerving and ending up under his right front tire. That, however, is what you’re supposed to do. Write it down for future reference.

I think this general paranoia stems from my early interactions with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Unlike a lot of young people I see today, I could not wait for the day I became eligible for my learners permit. The calendar hanging on the wall in my room had x’s leading up to the day of the big event with a huge star highlighting the day I was to turn exactly 15 1/2. My mother took half a day off from work to drive me down to the DMV. I passed my written test, and was handed my temporary license. Had it been made of 14 carat gold, it couldn’t have been more precious to me. It was the first ticket on the journey into adulthood. What a heady experience. Looking back I have to wonder what the big hurry was to get here, but at the time being 18 or 21 seemed fraught with adventure and filled with mystique. Little did I know it was more fraught with dishes, and filled with dirty diapers and long days at the office.

Where passing my written test had turned out to be a walk in the park, the behind the wheel test was more like a leisurely stroll through a minefield. It took it three tries. The first time I nearly took out a young mother in a crosswalk pushing a baby carriage. The next time when I was parallel parking I backed into a trash bin and knocked the entire contents into the middle of the street. I somehow managed to scrape by with one point above failing on my third attempt, even though I technically went through an intersection after the light had turned red. I’m pretty certain I only passed because the harried DMV examiner (got the same guy all three times) tasked with grading my test must have figured three times was the charm, and tempting fate a fourth time would definitely have put him in fear for his life. Truly I am a good driver nowadays. Dale, my partner in crime, always comments on it. I shall leave my opinion of his driving skills for another time.

Just as I was finishing up reviewing my tests, PG&E arrived to tell me yet another part of my shade tree has to be removed as it’s interfering with the power lines. When I moved in I had a lovely shaded backyard. These days there are two sparse trees left, with one having the back half almost entirely missing. It looks like a bald man with a bad hair piece. Had to buy extra patio umbrellas so we don’t bake in our own juices on hot days.

So, I am off to the DMV on Friday. Wish me luck.

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Dale’s phone went under this week. We had a lovely ceremony by the recycle bin. Sorry I didn’t get the invites out. That being said, the morning following we were fourth in line at his provider’s store when they opened, to purchase him a new one. For Dale, his phone is an extension of his hand. This, unlike me, who can never find my phone and when I do wish I had left it alone and let it remain lost. One salesperson was manning the oars. He explained there would be a wait. True to his word, it took about a half an hour until we were finally seated across from him at his desk. All good, it’s not like the Queen was coming for lunch. The salesman, David, turned out to also be the owner of the establishment, and a really nice, and extremely helpful human being. He apologized again for the wait. I suggested he needed more faces behind the three empty service desks. He explained he had ads running in the hopes of hiring people, but unlike several years ago when twenty people submitted their resumes a half an hour after he placed an ad, nowadays resumes dribbled in at an alarmingly slow rate, and he couldn’t fill his open positions. At one point, he asked me if I wanted to sign up. Well, I would, but I have a lot of irons on the fire, and am probably not the most reliable candidate for any position at the moment.

After poking about the unresponsive phone for any signs of life, he was thankfully able to revive it long enough to retrieve the information before it went dark for the last time. We thanked it for its service and looked at the options available for a replacement. My Iphone11 was sitting on the desk. Noticing it, David commented I too would be needing an upgrade pretty soon. Please, this was the upgrade. I just purchased for a car payment and change eight months ago. I will have to limp along without the next and best technology for a little while I’m afraid.

Another upgrade I probably need and won’t get anytime soon is my GPS. I know everybody uses their cell phones to navigate but I started with my GPS, and I’m nothing if not loyal. Rick and I ordered our first unit to eliminate what I referred to as his “road rage”, well before it was a fashionable term. The rage was not directed towards inconsiderate drivers on the road, but rather at me sitting in the passengers seat trying to decipher a map. Why is it men hand their spouses a map and expect us to be the tour guide when we have never been where we are going either? Just because I have a printed map in front of my face does not guarantee I have any idea where I am. Maps can be confusing and difficult to follow. The GPS immediately lifted the burden of guiding us places off of me, and transferred it to the lady who lives in the device, who we came to call Eleanor. I don’t know why. Eleanor was such a blessing. Even when she occasionally went off grid, she had all the animus coming her way when we found ourselves going in circles, while I basked in a glow of blissful indifference.

Last Friday I packed up my essentials, got in the car, and programmed Eleanor to guide me to my son’s house in the Bay Area. It’s not that I don’t know where to locate my children without benefit of electronic equipment, but my son has recently moved, and I’ve only been to the new house once since the pandemic reshaped our lives. There’s something so freeing about driving along listening to music. My particular favorites are found on the 70’s classic rock stations. Rolling along with Creedance or Lynyrd Skynyrd makes my soul smile. Thankfully, the freeways though packed with the usual burden of cars, didn’t create any log jams on the way down. My son and his girlfriend share a large home on an equally large lot which they need to accommodate the five children they share together. They are great kids, but whether great or not, five kids between the ages of eleven and twenty means there aren’t a lot of unfilled moments. The house and grounds are set up to keep them occupied, it worked well for me too. I played ping pong, water volley ball, and all variety of board games. We walked, talked, ate, and generally had a great time. By the time I got in the car and pointed it towards home I just put it on auto-pilot and let whoever that guy is in there commiserate with Eleanor to get me to my destination. Whew. When you’ve had a year and a half of boring inactivity, getting all the fun thrown at you in one weekend without a diffuser can be exhausting.

I went into several stores while visiting, and was surprised to find everyone wearing masks again. We’re doing the two steps forward, one step back routine in would seem. The national health group was saying on the news we have a glut of vaccine that is going to go to waste because nobody is signing up to relinquish their arms. Wow. That is sad news to me. That’s like like saying I have a burn, I have salve available to make the pain go away, but I’m not going to use it because I don’t want to be told what to do. I will never understand this mentality, but there you go. One of the things I am working on, because my psyche is always a work in progress, is learning to accept that, yes, others can entertain a different point of view than myself. I know! It just seems wrong doesn’t it? In this case, however, these decisions effect us all. I do not want to go back to Point A again, when we have a way to go forward not backward, but what can you do? Since I am now fully vaccinated, and have lived through the virus, I am trying to live my life in a somewhat normal way and hopeful that at some point this will all be behind us.

It was interesting to watch the two billionaires soar toward the stars recently. They weren’t long flights, but seemed very successful in doing what they were intended to do. Many people were polled and asked if they would be interested in exploring the galaxy, and I was surprised a high percentage of the group interviewed had no interest at all in what is out there. If we don’t start taking better care of this planet, we might not have a choice but to begin looking for another to inhabit. I’m just saying. I did hear this morning that they have learned that cows have an enzyme in their stomachs that will absorb or process plastic. That’s interesting. Plastic is becoming a big problem in our world. As a kid I drank my water out of the tap in the kitchen or stuck my head under the hose nozzle outside. I’m not fully convinced that because it comes in a plastic bottle these days it’s somehow better for you, but, again, I’m open to discussion on that.

I am glad to be back home. The much needed break was so appreciated but it’s always nice to return to my comfy old bed with its valleys and hills contoured to my body, and to see Dale and Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, who though she wouldn’t admit it, misses me when I’m gone.

Anyhow, have a good hump day.

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I am feeling decidedly world weary today. My mind is creating all kinds of scenarios. There’s the one where I am sitting in an outdoor cafe on the French Riviera or another with me basking on a sunny stretch of beach in Portofino. There are time in our lives when everything seems to come down on us at once. During those times, one of which I am currently experiencing, I try to find my center and stay balanced. Perhaps there hasn’t been enough air for me in between the last period of chaos and this one, for me to properly rebuild my stamina. Whatever the case, I am stumbling a little more often then I usually do when the chute opens and the garbage begins to tumble down. Please notice the white flag I am waving in my right hand. I am not signalling for the horses to leave the gate. Help.

My mother used to say, “You could throw Susan out a ten story window and that girl will always land on her feet”. Susan, by the way, is an address I only permitted from my mother and my grandmother. Susan is far too formal a name for the person I am, and whenever I hear my full name, I always assume I am in trouble. “Susan, get in this house right now”, was a familiar line thrown out our back door growing up. Susie, which is the name most people refer to me by, was my great grandmother’s name. I was named after Susie Mack, and from all accounts Susie was a bit of a character. I like to believe I take after her in that way. It is true, I am a survivor. That, in and of itself, is a gift. I try to pile the gifts I have in my life, which are many, on the plate with the less desirable things to keep everything equitable. Again, balance in all things.

To add to my crazy personal life, the weather isn’t cooperating. Those of us here in California, well on the west coast in general, are in the middle of the worst drought on record. My cousin in British Columbia said she was frying her breakfast on the sidewalk, and a dear friend in Oregon texted me it was 115 in her neighborhood. She and her husband were trapped in their house with three dogs watching the thermometer rise. Each year, it gets drier and hotter, while on the other side of the country it gets wetter and hurricane activity increases. I watched a news story this morning about how scientists can read the rings of the massive sequoias to tell the story of historical drought situations over hundreds of years. According to the rings, this one’s a pip. Our reservoirs statewide are at 50% and the snow pack melted two months earlier than it should have. With the fire situation being critical as well, it is more than a tad unnerving. As I said in my previous blog, if cows would quit burping and pooping we’d be in better shape. Hard to believe gassy cattle are contributing to global warming, but it seems to be a fact. I should have known I’d pay for a lifetime burger addiction in one way or another.

It is hard to keep positive when the world keeps throwing negative tomatoes in your face. However, the other day while driving I experienced one of what I call my “near perfect moments” which was a real shot in the arm. The day was beautiful, a nearly perfect summer day in California. For those of you who have been here and enjoyed such a day, you will understand the distinction. Blue, blue skies with white billowy clouds floating about, a slight breeze moving the warm air through the leaves of the trees, and a generally lazy feel as if time had slightly slowed down to an easier pace if only for the moment. Surely the sun comes up in other areas of the world, it just seems to do it so beautifully sometimes here on the western coast of the United States. I have been all across the USA, made my home in six states thus far, and as yet haven’t located anywhere I’d rather live. Don’t misunderstand me, each state I lived in had something good to offer, it’s just California always called me home again. Driving along, as I was saying, I had a moment. Creedance was telling me to “run through the jungle” on the radio, the sun was pouring in through the partially open window warming my back, and the road stretched out before me as if beckoning me to come along for the ride. Suddenly my heart was filled with such a thankfulness for being alive. It really was the most exhilarating feeling, bringing tears to my eyes and creating goosebumps running along my legs and arms. If I could bottle that feeling, I could buy an island in the pacific and retire in style.

Music always moves me. Sometimes when I’m home I crank up one of my favorites and lose myself in the melody and lyrics. Creedance, like many of the 70’s bands, often takes my mind back to my misspent youth. Recently I had a discussion with a dear friend of mine about the same age as myself. That age would be in between almost old and old, in case you are wondering. We were talking about how much we have seen and what we have lived through since planting our feet on the planet. Quite an impressive resume we have amassed, I have to say. I was born not to let any grass grow under my feet. It interests me that the kids coming up today seem to drag their feet when it comes to growing up. I was poised at the starting gate at eighteen and sprang out of the gate the moment the gun went off. I don’t believe I ever thought about remaining in my parent’s house once I was out of school, at least not for very long. My mother would have liked it if I never moved out. When I got married at nineteen it was very difficult for her to cut the ties that bound us. At my wedding reception, she consumed half the champagne available and was reduced to a blubbering, sobbing mess before I left on my honeymoon. At the time I had no children naturally (or at least hopefully), and at that age I was imbued with very little sense, so I didn’t have any understanding of why she was behaving in such a way. Now, of course, having children of my own, I get her “only chick”, as she likes to call me, was going out the garden gate and leaving her behind with an empty nest. Most valid things we learn, I have come to believe, come to us after we have at least turned thirty. Before that, we’re just a mold without shape. What business I had being married at nineteen defies logic. I did not possess one shred of life knowledge, and had not so much as a capful of experience or talent to bring to the table. I was as raw as a carrot in a roadside vegetable stand. I like to say, and there is some truth to it, I didn’t become a real girl (like Pinnochio) until I was fifty. That’s when some of the lessons I’d been given finally began to stick to the wall.

I have a huge repertoire of mistakes and wrong turns tucked away in my bag. I don’t carry them around with me anymore. I have already made my amends as best I could and put them away in my pile of lessons learned and promises broken. Each day I am given the opportunity to be better than I was the day before. I strive for that goal. Understand me, I often fall short, but I give myself at A for effort if I fall, and try to do better on the next day.

They say, though I don’t know for sure, that learning to love ourselves is the number one challenge in our lives. I know for me it wasn’t always easy. At this age I have found a comfortable spot in my own skin I call home and this is a good thing. In the process, I have come to love as well that little chubby girl who once greeted me in the mirror in the morning, so she can be at peace inside me. One thing I have learned through all this is to have compassion for the people around me. We are all human beings struggling to understand our world, our environments, the person sleeping on the pillow next to us, those who brought us into the world, those we brought into the world and most of all ourselves. I think of this a lot today because of the horrible tragedy going on in Florida with the condominium collapse. It is a striking example of the fragility of our lives. Makes you want to really appreciate the day and fill it with special people and happy moments.

So, on this rather introspective day, I send you a hug if you need one, or wish you a special dinner with someone you love, or a day at the beach with your kids or your dog, whatever makes your heart smile.

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This is such an odd time for me. I’m finding it difficult to concentrate in the little things because of the heavier issues dominating my life at the moment. This morning I put a spoonful of coconut sugar in the bottom of my coffee mug as I always do, then reached in the refrigerator for the creamer and filled my cup to the brim. Taking that first sip of the day, my tastebuds quickly sent out an alert “911 no caffeine detected”. Duh.

Had to make a Costco run early on. I try to get there before the rest of the crush of humanity with the same idea in mind shows up. I believe one would have to arrive when the store is closed in order to find the parking lot uncrowded. People were already waiting outside at ten minutes before the store was due to open. I found myself squeezed in the middle of a small crowd, poised expectantly, with my hands curled over the bar of my shopping cart. I resisted the urge to shuffle my feet and whinny. When they opened the doors everyone surged forward. Suddenly, it felt like I was running with the bulls at Pamplona. I flashed my membership card as I was propelled by the employee checking them at the door. What a zoo. It’s usually bad, but usually not that bad. I assume it was because this weekend is a holiday. I love shopping at Costco. It’s sort of like a massive toy store for adults. They don’t really have toy stores anymore, or I haven’t seen one since Toys R Us bit the dust. As a kid, toy stores were a big deal for me. Rows of dolls, skates, bikes, and games. Loved it. My mom would give me my allowance every week. What I didn’t spend on candy and junk, went into my piggy bank. When I’d amassed enough cold hard cash to put toward something I coveted, my mom would pitch in the rest and we would head to the toy store to pick out a treat. For me, it was dolls all the way. I played with dolls until the summer between seventh and eighth grade. I probably would have continued to this day, except my best friend and I were playing with Barbies on the back porch when two neighbor boys heard us interacting and called us babies in front of a group of kids. Secretly, I still took the old girl out of her case from time to time until I got into high school when Ken was replaced by an actual live replica.

Today wasn’t a big shopping day. I don’t buy a lot at Costco anymore, because you have to buy in such huge amounts. With just two of us eating here on a normal day, twelve pounds of cheddar cheese really isn’t a practical purchase. I’ve been using the same olive oil I bought at Costco since 2001, and I’m finally down to the last bottle. I was delighted to find the familiar free food stands were back in business inside. I used to make lunch out of it while cruising up and down the aisles. Food has really gone up since the pandemic. There was a package of short ribs I picked up that had a label reading $47.52. Wow. Maybe beef will end up being a true luxury down the road. Cows seem to be trouble in a lot of venues lately. I understand their burping and manure are largely contributing to the global warming situation by creating an over abundance of methane gas. Hard to believe our planet could be poised in a downhill spiral due to cattle flatulence. I didn’t see that one coming, and don’t remember finding any reference to it in Revelations.

Surveying the rest of the meat counter, hamburger prices looked more like roast prices used to. I came across a package of impossible burgers. Reminded me of my oldest granddaughter, a fervent vegan. Nothing that has a parent crosses her lips. She has been trying to get me to embrace these impossible burgers . The few times I’ve tried these burger wantabes, I can’t say they’ve satisfied my need for beef. However, over the weekend Dale and I and several friends drove up to Truckee for lunch. Truckee is a touristy town outside of Lake Tahoe. While there, we had lunch at an old restaurant up on the hill offering up a gorgeous view of the town and the valley below from their deck. Their menu, though including meat items, really leans toward vegetarian. I had eggs Benedict, for instance, and the Hollandaise was made with truffles and served over arugula on an English muffin. It was delicious, but not the standard presentation for that menu item in my experience. Dale ordered the impossible burger. When it arrived, it looked a bit like it had been baked in a crematorium. Totally charred on the outside, we all kind of watched as he took his first bite, assuming it would send it back. Surprise, surprise he loved it. Apparently, they had added black beans and garlic to amp up the taste. Before long only a few ashy remains were left on his plate.

Already I do a lot of meatless meals, such as pasta, salads, and eggs. Eggs are another red flag for me when it comes to a vegan lifestyle, eggs are not included. Can’t do it. I have yet to meet an egg I didn’t like. Again, I don’t buy my eggs at Costco because a) you have to chance hypothermia in the refrigeration room to get eggs, and b) you have to buy a flat. If I brought all those eggs home, they would be the only thing other than the condiments in the door that would fit in there.

By the time I got back to the car and opened my trunk there were five cars lined up waiting to grab my spot. I got Dale situated, then began to load the groceries. One lady kept putting her hands up in the air. What? They didn’t put things in bags and they were out of boxes, so I had to load them in groups of as many as I could carry. I wanted to say, “Lady, If you want to use those hands in a more constructive way, step out of your vehicle and help me”. I’m just sayin. Dale isn’t able to do as much these days, so a lot of the loading/unloading falls to me. I’m not complaining at all, it’s certainly not his fault. I’m just stating a fact.

Dale is on oxygen 24/7. This is not a new experience for me, Rick was also on oxygen, but it is for him. He doesn’t like it. I don’t like it either. Didn’t like it back then, and it hasn’t grown on me any more since that time. They brought the tanks in after our ER visit on Memorial Day. The tech showed up with all this equipment after we arrived home. It was after seven in the evening, we hadn’t eaten, and were both brain dead. Dale, because he’s been prodded and probed, all day, and me because I just spent nine hours trying to find a comfortable spot in the chairs they provide for visitors in hospitals. The tech, who completely understands the workings of the tanks and compressor, gave us a quick run through on how we’re going to operate all this intricate equipment after he leaves. Hello? The following morning, of course, neither of could remember one word he said. Dumb and Dumber, the Sequel. Soooooo, I had to call them and have them resend a tech to give us a refresher course. They said this is totally common, particularly if their clients have just left a hospital environment. K. Even after a month we still screw up. Yesterday, we took two tanks with us as backups only to find out neither were filled. Sigh. You’d think I’d remember all this from before, but I think I’d effectively erased that part of my memory bank.

Huh?

At any rate, we returned home unbeaten and unscathed. Yay. Each day is a gift. You have to find joy where you can and refer to happy times often to refill your tanks.

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If I were to narrow down my list of pet peeves (yes, I do have a list) to just two, they would have to be procrastination and being late. Essentially they fall under the same umbrella, but each trait also exhibits its own separate nuances. To break it down further, it would be those individuals perpetually late for everything, and and those people I refer to as dawdlers. My mother is both. When she used to suggest a shopping trip beginning at 10:00 a.m., you could pretty much plan on leaving the house around noon. Even when we did finally exit the door, she would make several trips back inside to retrieve her sunglasses or check once again to see if she’d “locked up”. Drove me right straight up the wall. I am a lot of things, but on the good side of the tally book, I am punctual. When I have an appointment at 1:15, I leave the house with enough time to cover my driving time to my destination plus an additional 15 minutes to spare in case I get stuck in traffic or whatever. Rick, when still with me, would leave the house at 1:13 for a 1:15 appointment, drive like a complete lunatic, and still arrive fifteen minutes late. This, I would find stressful.

Being late occasionally is part of life, things come up, unexpected delays occur beyond your control. However, being late for every event scheduled on your calendar, I believe to be a lifestyle choice. I think it’s a mindset that says “my time is more important than yours”. When I am planning a dinner party and ask my guests to arrive at 4:30 for appetizers and drinks I have set that time because my meal planning revolves around it. If appetizers are at 4:30 and dinner at 6;00 and you decide to walk in the door at 5:50, obviously something is going to be cold. Simply saying sorry every time you show up an hour or two late does not give you the green light to continue the behavior or make it okay.

Once I had a friend who was constantly getting fired for arriving late for work. He simply could not understand what the big deal was if his start time was 8:00 and he showed up at, say, 8:45, 9:00. I tried to explain to him that when an employer sets a work schedule from 9-5 he needs his employees there during that specific time period. What if you were a receptionist in a company who’s posted hours were 9-5? At 9:00, the phones began ringing or clients had begun to line up in the lobby, and there you are at 9:15 sitting in Starbucks enjoying a caramel frappuccino. It interested me he could not wrap his mind around that concept. He felt, his life, his rules. Be nice if it worked that way, but rules were put in place to create some sort of order out of chaos, and that is the world we humans exist in. Unless that changes in the near future, he will continue to be filling out job applications.

Imagine a world without rules or structure. It sounds freeing and wonderful but would it be? People would be driving through intersections coming from both directions without benefit of lights or stop signs. It would be perfectly fine to walk into someone’s home, help yourself to a sandwich from their refrigerator, and leave with their TV set under your arm, because there would be no law in place saying there would be any consequence for engaging in such behavior. Laws force us to be civil, even when sometimes we might not choose to be. Worries me when I hear of the new Texas legislation allowing citizens to carry firearms openly without benefit of licensing or instruction. We are already experiencing a crisis in this country when it comes to mass shootings, or shootings in general. The reasoning is people will act responsibly. If that were true, we wouldn’t be having a crisis, yes?

There’s no denying rules are annoying at times. Particularly with the pandemic we just survived. Rules for this and more rules for that. The truth is rules don’t always apply fairly to everyone either. For example, my mother’s taxes got mixed up a few years ago. Now understand, she is both elderly and suffers with dementia. The IRS has been relentless in their pursuit of this issue, even though it was simply a misunderstanding in filing, and not a purposeful oversight. The money, in fact, is not owed just incorrectly noted on the form. I have my accountant talking to them. I told him to stress her medical limitations and age and also, as my mother would be the first to acknowledge, orange is definitely not in her color palette. Funny isn’t it, how those three innocent little letters I, R and S that hold no malice whatsoever while standing on their own, when strung together in that order can create immediate fear in the hearts of a U.S. citizen. We are talking a relatively small amount of money at issue here, at least in the scheme of things. In their coffers even if it was owed it really is a drop in the community bucket. This really gets under my skin when I think of huge corporations such as Amazon (which after the Pandemic I feel like I am an investor in), that pay no taxes whatsoever on the massive monies they rake in every second of the day. Seriously, something needs to be done to change this dynamic. The fact the richest 10% of the households in the world hold 88% of the wealth is absolutely mind blowing.

Anyhow, enough politics for the moment, back to the subject at hand. If I continue,I shall start to pace, and then I might actually begin to feeeel my blood pressure rise.

Along with feeling a pattern of lateness to be more than a bit self focused, I also attribute it to poor time management habits. This also slops over onto dawdling. Dawdlers, at least the ones in my life, find ten other things to do when they set out to do one task. While walking to the kitchen to wash a coffee cup, they stop to pet the cat, pick up the newspaper and scan the crossword puzzle to fill in one additional box, fold the pile of laundry on the footstool, and crochet a couple of rows on the afghan they are working on. By the time they get to the kitchen they can’t remember what brought them there in the first place. I have one friend who will take two hours to get a meal ready to go in the oven. Easily distracted, she might go to the cupboard to get some chervil and end up sitting there on a chair rearranging the entire spice shelf before returning to the meal she was preparing. This person is also hyper meticulous. Each task is done with minute attention to every detail. When preparing a bunch of asparagus, she snips each little leafy frond off the stalk. If I took the time to do that kind of maintenance on my vegetables, I would have to start preparing dinner before breakfast and we could plan on eating around midnight.

We all have our personality hiccoughs. I have a growing list of mine. You’d think as you get older, you’d scratch some off, but it seems as one sloughs off another one pops up to take it’s place.

Looking back, I can see I tended to gravitate towards men who were late. My ex-husband, David, was rarely late for work as I remember, but always late for social engagements. I had a dear friend who passed away at forty-two. Danny was one of my favorite people on the planet, so when the invitation came to attend his funeral there was no way I was going to miss it. The ceremony was to take place at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Covina Hills in Southern California. Covina Hills was located about two hours from where we lived at the time in Redondo Beach. For those of you not familiar with the facility, it is a sprawling operation covering a huge piece of hilly acreage. There are numerous chapels and buildings on the property, as well as locations to inter your loved ones both above and below ground. The morning of the funeral, I was ready at the time we’d set to leave. Southern California is a snake’s nest of freeways. It can be highly unpredictable when it comes to delays or amount of traffic. David was just stepping out of the shower when we were supposed to be getting in the car. Finally, now a half an hour late, we were backing out of the driveway after three or four return trips to the house for things he had forgotten like his wallet, car keys, and watch. I was watching the time get completely away from us and hoping not to walk into the chapel while the service was in progress. As usual, the glut of traffic was evident as we merged from one crowded freeway onto the next. By the time we finally approached the gate at Forest Lawn, we were nearly forty-five minutes behind schedule. After giving her Dan’s name, the woman at the gate looked up the chapel where the service was to be held and handed us a map. Whew. Forest Lawn was as mind boggling as the freeways we’d just left behind us. After winding around this way and that we located what we thought to be the right building. Yay. Quietly, we entered through the back door and sat in the very back row. Someone was already speaking at the podium who I did not recognize. Settling in and taking a breath, I looked around the room. There was not one familiar face present that I could see in any row. Huh. I whispered this to David who put his finger to his lips to say “shhhhh”. K. The more I looked around, the more I became convinced we were not in the right funeral. “Where’s the family”, I whispered? Again with the finger to the lips. Now I have a personality quirk, if you will. When I get nervous, I sometime laugh at inappropriate times. Suddenly the idea that we were sitting in a strangers memorial service pulled the trigger on that tic. It began as a giggle in the back of my throat, and quickly was escalating. David was looking at me as if I was about ten marbles short of a game. Not knowing how to shut me up, as people had begun to turn around, he wrapped his arm around my head and placed his hand over my mouth. At the same time we stood up in tandem and backed out of the chapel. Good Lord. Exit stage right.

Outside, I couldn’t get hold of myself. Fortunately, Danny was known for his wicked sense of humor so somehow I knew he was perched a cloud somewhere overhead getting a real charge out of the scene I just made. Back in the car, we returned to the gate and once again the lady directed us to where we had just been. Really? When I mentioned the family, she told me they would have been seated to the right and most likely couldn’t be seen from the back of the church. Sigh. The walk of shame once again. Back we went, and back in the back row we sat. People were openly staring now. The humiliation seemed to keep the laughter at bay. Turned out, the people we were looking at were work friends who we wouldn’t have know anyhow. Fortunately, everybody but David, got a big kick out of it. The wake really was a celebration of a life well lived. So many people came up and introduced themselves and said “oh, you’re the one”. Yup, that would be me. I still smile every time I think about it, like I am right now.

Happy Tuesday. Laugh at yourself from time to time. Life can be so serious.

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Last night was a restless one for me. It culminated with an unsettling dream that woke me up out of a druggy kind of sleep about 4 a.m. In this dream, I was walking along a beautiful strand of beach. My mind recognized it as Laguna Beach, a beach in Southern California I frequented often as a teen and young adult. The dunes of sand rose steeply upward, creating a long sloping ridge which culminated at a sidewalk high above. To get to level ground, meant first traversing the slope. The sand looked particularly coarse, more the consistency of brown sugar than normal beach sand might appear. Each time I attempted to climb up that slope, I would make it about half way, then slide back down to the bottom. Was I to attempt to analyze my dream, having no expertise in the field whatsoever, I’d take a guess perhaps this speaks to the one step forward three steps back feeling I’ve been having of late. I know it’s two steps back in the original saying, but in my case three feels more accurate. Finally, after pushing forward using everything I had, I made it to street level. Standing there on the pavement, strangers passed by on either side of me. No one acknowledged me, and I, in turn, didn’t acknowledge them. Somehow I realized I had no car, and I knew I was very far from home. Starting to wonder how I would ever find my way back, I woke myself up. I must have been a very deep sleep state, for when I awoke it felt like I was in a dense fog. My eyes were open, but my brain remained firmly planted in “sleep mode”.

No matter how dire the situation, I am a creature of routine. Once I’m awake, I use the bathroom, brush my teeth, and then head for the kitchen to push brew on the coffee maker. Was the house on fire, I believe this is so embedded in my DNA, the smell of fresh coffee brewing would be the first thing firefighters noticed on entering the building. This morning I was wandering about after my dream like a drunk trying to get out of his own way the morning after. Even the cat was giving me a wide berth, instead of winding about my legs as she usually does. The house is at full capacity at the moment, with people in every room. Being a rather petite dwelling, it was really built to accommodate one or two. When you add additional bodies to the mix, it means if you are running water in the kitchen, most likely someone trying to sleep in an adjacent room is pulling a pillow over their heads. When I am trying to be quiet, it is often the exact time I manage to make the most noise. Why is that? Perhaps it is a natural occurrence in nature? Of course, it could be it is just me. I do know when I’m trying to keep the noise level at a minimum, it is when things to go to hell in a hand basket around here. First, I opened the cupboard above my washing machine for some unknown reason. Many of my cleaning products such as bathroom sprays, room deodorizers etc. are housed there. Certainly I have never stored the coffee next to my toilet cleaner. Each cupboard in my house is like a Chinese puzzle because I have more stuff than storage, and this one is no exception. Why I was standing there like an idiot looking into this particular cupboard trying to locate the coffee defies explanation. I moved one thing to the side, just one little box. Uh-oh. The entire pyramid of cans above it came tumbling out of the cupboard bouncing with a resounding, bing, bang, boom off the washer lid before landing solidly one after another on the tile. One of the caps had even popped off and was rolling around in a circle like a top. Oops. I can’t be sure, but I believe I heard a muffled expletive uttered somewhere in the house with my name attached to it. Sorry.

Another annoying thing about sharing digs with me I’m sure, is I’m up with the roosters, if not before. Actually, the roosters text me asking for a wake up call. I work on this, I try to do better, but my mind has a 4 a.m. set wake up time and I can’t seem to adjust the dial. God knows I’ve given it my best. Seriously, trains could set their schedules by my internal clock. If someone is staying at the house and I decide to catch an early morning program, I use the closed captioning feature so as not to disturb. No matter what, and it seems only when someone is sleeping elsewhere in the house, I turn the TV power on to find the sound set on 56. My neighbors two doors down could follow what I’m watching. Frantically, I then struggle to mute the darn thing, but assuredly someone in the house has just levitated off their mattress before I find the button. Again, sorry.

Finally, this morning I located the coffee. Surprise, I located the coffee where I keep the coffee and coffee supplies and have since I moved in. Who knew? Definitely, some caffeine was needed at that point. Pushing brew I turned to go back in the bedroom. As I walked past the sink I noticed the pot still sitting in there. That would be the coffee pot, yes. I knew I had poured the water in before activating the brew cycle. Turning, I could see the coffee was happily pouring out onto the counter with the grounds floating on top of it. Yay. Now, I was swearing. Cleaning up coffee grounds is like trying to pick up a greased pig. You just get a firm hold of them and then they slip away. Even found some stuck to the bottom of my sock. At last I managed to pour new water in the trough, put the filter in the proper receptacle, add coffee, and brew a pot. Good Lord.

My stomach began to growl. Not wanting to make any more noise, I thought of boiled eggs. Protein always get my motor primed in the morning. A couple of soft boiled eggs and a piece of wheat toast sounded like what I needed to get things moving in a forward direction, and raise me out of my stupor. Taking out my small saucepan, I boiled some water and dropped two lovely large eggs in it. Reaching for my chicken timer on the counter, I set it for four minutes. Hearing my cellphone go off in the bedroom, I padded off to see who was calling so early. I answered in my “inside voice”. A friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while was calling to check up on things and see how Dale was doing. As I mentioned in a previous blog, my partner Dale, is dealing with a cancer diagnosis at the moment. Getting involved in the conversation, I completely forgot I had put the eggs on to boil. Yup. In about a half an hour the smoke alarms began to go off. What the…..? Ah so, a light went off in an otherwise dark tunnel. Inside the tunnel a sign was illuminated that read simply “the eggs are boiling”. Insert expletive here. Flying into the kitchen I found the ashen remains of what had once been two large white eggs most likely permanently fused to the bottom of the pan. Ach. By the time I managed to quiet the third alarm, good news, everyone was up now. All four were standing before me, not any one of them wearing their happy faces. Good morning!!

Truly, had I set out to make as much noise as possible, I really couldn’t have done a better job. Well, other than if I’d set up a Chinese gong in the hallway and began pounding away on that, or invited the Marine Corp Band to practice in the living room. Sigh. I do try, I really do.

Last night in the middle of the night, I woke up to the feeling my life no longer looked familiar to me. This, I’m sure is because of all the turmoil going on in it at the moment. Undoubtedly this chaos contributed to the weird dreams I was having as well.

Some days you simply need to go back to bed and remain there until the dark cloud passes overhead. One has to hold on to sunny outcomes even if the sky is dark and rain seems imminent. Tomorrow, thankfully, is another day and I will do better. I know this to be true. Happy Friday to you.

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