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Archive for the ‘moving forward’ Category

Birthday months are coming up in my family. I keep a calendar to remember all of them, but in spite of the effort, often find myself sending belated birthday cards these days. Too much going on to keep up with, and it leaves me feeling totally disorganized. My cat is sitting at my feet as I write this, waiting impatiently for her morning allotment of fishy treats. Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, could care less if I miss a birthday or two here or there, or if dinner is on time, or I’m behind schedule. Her main concern is four times a day I show up with two treats in my hand for her to enjoy. My, my, we are a tad self involved, even for a feline. Being her one and only well loved human, I do my best to keep her needs met. Keeping everybody happy is a job no applicant is qualified to fill. I know, I’ve tried for lo these many years. Finally, I have learned you have to keep yourself afloat, and then when you’re buoyant enough, you can lend a hand to pull others in the raft with the energy you have left.

The weather lady is saying another epic heat wave is headed our way. Oh goody. It’s supposed to reach 107 and above by Saturday. This will test people’s nerves as well as our electrical grid. Hopefully, it will not ignite any brush fires or create rolling blackouts. We have a generator sitting by the shed all primed and ready to go, but you can’t hook your A/C up to it. It’s only the first part of July, and already we are logging our third dangerous heat wave. This doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season. Personally, you could eliminate summer entirely for me, the way things seem to be headed, and leave the three other seasons for us to enjoy year round. As a kid, I could not wait for summer to arrive. Ahhhhh, sweet, lazy, crazy days of summer. No school, of course, was the main attraction, and it brought with it glorious long, hot, days filled with chlorine laced pools, bike rides along tree covered paths and backyard barbecues on the weekends. I can still picture my stepdad on the patio in his “Kiss the Cook” apron. The man could smoke, drink, and talk concurrently. He’d be flipping burgers and turning hot dogs, a lit cigarette dangling from his lips, and his martini glass glistening in the cone shaped glass next to him with an olive floating in it. Back then, other than the holidays, it was my favorite time of year. Not any more.

Since summer has arrived, whether I welcomed it or not, I decided to take a trip to my son’s next week. Recently he has upgraded his backyard and the pool area and he’s invited me to come and check it out. Having little access to swimming areas over the past few years, I didn’t have much need for swim wear. After looking at what my closet had to offer, I decided it was time to go bathing suit shopping. Not my favorite way to wile away an afternoon. It’s not that my body would cause young children to cringe in horror was I to expose it, mind you. However, though my weight has remained fairly static over the years, things aren’t as toned and firm as they could be. “You could go to the gym”, you say. Yes, I could. It’s not that I get no exercise, I walk every day, but I realize this does not have the same impact as taking up jazzersize, or zumba or whatever is fashionable with the impeccably cut ab group these days. Truth is, I am not one of those humans who can’t wait to pull on some Spandex and go work up a good sweat on an elliptical cross trainer or get up close and personal with some free weights. Actually, I’d rather be shot in the foot. There is a great gym not to far from my house. Pre-Covid I went down and took a tour. I talked myself into signing up for a year’s membership and then the virus showed up and blew the wind right out of that sail. Don’t feel sorry for me, there were no tears shed over this. Now I’m thinking about signing up once again. I’m not doing anything about it, but at least it’s shown up in the options for getting in shape column.

I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about getting older or the changes occurring to the body. Mostly, I’m just excited when I open my eyes in the morning and find I’m still here. Aging is part of life. Nobody is going to avoid it. Even those with the wherewithal to hire skilled plastic surgeons to pull up this up and tuck that in will eventually have to concede to the passage of time and go through the process with the rest of us. I still want to take a swim, and will continue to do so even when my body does scare young children, because life is to be lived and I intend to do exactly that for all the years I’m gifted with while on this earth.

So many of my friends worry endlessly about other people’s opinion of them. I try not to do this. It’s not I don’t care what people think about me, I do. I don’t think anyone enjoys being disliked or ridiculed. It is more I have come to the understanding every person I meet may not like me. Not every human I come in contact with will share my point of view, find my personality engaging, see humor where I do, or wish to spend time with me. This, in my estimation, is a fact of life. It does not mean I am a bad person, not likable, or obnoxious, though some might argue the point, but rather we all have different tastes and enjoy different types of people. I think we’ve all had people in our lives who instantly on meeting them we feel a strong connection. I am blessed to have a lot of dear friends who fit under this category. Then there are those people who you might have known for a long time who you will never share that special type of bond or friendship with. Doesn’t mean they aren’t good people, just not a connection of commonality you wish to foster on a deeper level.

I have reached a point where, though I’m still learning new things each and every day, I have pretty much set my sail in a particular direction and most likely that is the lane I will hold my course in. I do keep doing my best to adjust my lens when new opinions cross my desk, and keep my mind open to other ways of looking at a given subject or new concept. Nothing should be totally static in our lives, for that can create a stagnant state. Things can change tomorrow, they often do. My life has changed so many times up until now, I have run out of digits to count them on. Change, like growing older, is an expected part of being alive.

,Sometimes I think I’m ready to move again. My best friend is leaving California, my children are well established and busy with their lives, but where? This is not an imminent thing for sure. I have my mom to take care of and Dale, my companion, has cancer, so these are situations floating about in limbo riddled with question marks and unknowns. I will ride out each of these storms until the dust has settled once again in my world and the compass point is again directing my way. Being a bit of a fairy dust spreader, I hope my mother and Dale are with me far off in the distant future. The end to their stories, and mine, is yet left to be written in the great book chronicling our lives. It will be as it is, and all I can do is hold on tightly to the side of the boat and hope we all remain together until the end of the ride. Hope is such a powerful emotion. I’m glad when we were in the conception phase of being, our creator thought to include it in the original package. It’s like a warm blanket to wrap around us in cold harsh times.

Moving, as I’ve said many times, is not unfamiliar to me. Thirty-nine times I have packed up my worldly possessions and moved to another location. That’s a lot of packing paper to my credit. When my ex-husband and I got assigned to a job in Nitro, West Virginia we were at the time winding up a year and a couple of months in Arkansas. Moving was part of the landscape for the type of work he did, so Nitro was simply the next pin on the map. The spouses of those employed for the construction company he worked for were accustomed to having their lives uprooted and replanted somewhere else around the country. We formed a wives group, after a while, composed of those of us moving in similar circles. At one meeting, since most of us liked to cook, we decided to compile a cookbook of our time together, to include all our favorite recipes along with a story to accompany each contribution. Being the only artist in the group, I was tasked with creating a suitable cover. I came up with a picture of a woman, bent over, carrying all her wordly possessions on her back. It was a great success. Often I take out that old binder, pages now dotted with the usual grease stains and spill marks associated with someone who likes to work in the kitchen, and reread the stories included with each recipe or put one on the menu for dinner. I haven’t seen these ladies since that chapter of my life closed, but think of them often and the laughs and tears we shared. It was a time of great adventure on the open road. There was a real freedom associated with not hanging your hat too long in one location, paired with a sort of heady anticipation of what was to come around the bend on your next assignment. The enticing uncertainty associated with living your life in an unpredictable sort of way. After I had hung up my hard hat, as I worked a job or two myself, and David and I too had said our goodbyes, it took me a while to plant roots again in one spot without the restlessness whispering in my ear it was long past time to move on.

Nitro was an interesting place to find ourselves. David, my ex, worked at the plant located in Nitro itself, but we found a home to rent across the Kanawha River in St. Albans. A lot of people discount West Virginia as a great place to live, but truly the “mountain state” has a lot to offer. Visually it is quite beautiful, with a lot of gorgeous spots for a person taken with being outdoors to explore. We were to spend three years there on two separate trips, and of all the places we made our home over our eight years on the road, West Virginia would come to be remembered as my favorite. I will write more about my adventures there in my next blog. For now, I wish you a great day filled with exciting adventures.

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I had a discussion with a young parent the other day I found interesting. She told me she asks her children what they would like to eat before preparing a meal. Things really are different then when I was growing up. I can honestly say I was never consulted about a meal really. What was put on my plate and served to me, I ate. If I chose not to eat it, my grandmother, at least to my recollection, never got up from the table and went in the kitchen and whipped me up something else more to my liking. Sometimes at breakfast, my grandmother did ask if I wanted my eggs poached, scrambled or fried, but other than that, what showed up on the plate was generally what I was expected to eat.

Now that I think more about it why shouldn’t children have some choice in their menu plan? They aren’t old enough always to make all the choices but I do think after they have tried a food several times and still have a strong distaste for it, perhaps they shouldn’t be made to eat it? This does not mean they can exclude every vegetable, fruit, or meat and substitute ice cream or candy bars, but within reason if there is a food they really do not like perhaps they need not be made to eat it? My son, for example, could not stand peas. His father, thought children should eat what was placed in front of them, and not waste food. The “starving children in China” script was pulled out often when food was left uneaten on their plates. This particular meal, the peas remained intact on my son’s plate and like the elephant in the room did not go unnoticed by my husband. “Eat your peas before leaving the table” was put out there. The gauntlet had been thrown. Dishes done, I came back to find my little one still staring at his plate. Stubbornness is definitely genetic. After a while the fork was lifted to his lips and he took a big bite of the dreaded little green bullets. The face was too much as the chewing commenced. Shortly, as quickly as they had gone down the chute they made a return visit all over my tablecloth. Having had enough of both men in my household, I scooped up my son and headed for the bathtub and handed his father the cleaning utensils to clean up the mess. Peas were no longer an issue at our house.

I never had to be forced to eat. I liked just about everything my grandmother put in front of me except for the dreaded liver and onions or the god forsaken beefsteak and kidney pie which were both my kryptonite. Ewwwww. Food was where she and I totally bonded. So many of my warmest memories of my younger years were created in my grandmother’s sunny kitchen. Sometimes, one of those memories will pop up in the most expected location. The other day while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, I had some time to kill. When driving into the complex parking lot I’d noticed a “Grand Opening” sign on a sandwich board in front of a new antiques and collectibles store. Antiques not really my decorating style, I decided it still might be interesting to take a look and see what they had to offer. On entering the store, it gave off that same musty, dusty smell most stores of that genre seem to have. Since the store (at least according to the sign out front) had only been open a couple of weeks, it got me to wondering if that scent actually came in a spray can, like new car smell at the car wash. Perhaps it’s the Moldy Oldie fragrance collection by Air Wick or the Granny’s Attic grouping by Fabreze. At any rate, while looking at the eclectic assortment of oldies but goodies for sale along the cluttered shelves, I came across four little china egg cups. Seeing them on the shelf took my mind immediately to childhood breakfasts in my grandmother’s family home on the hill in Halifax. The main focus of the room, was the lovely picture window looking out over Halifax harbor. Always I loved being in that kitchen with my grandmother. I can see her busy at the stove, apron in place, and if I inhale deeply I can almost smell all the delicious aromas wafting through the air. Our evening meals were usually taken in the formal dining room replete with all the bells and whistles. Breakfast, however, was served with far less fanfare at the little formica table by the window in the kitchen.

My grandmother woke up precisely at 6:00 every day. If asked why in later years why she still got up so early when she could have languished in bed, she said “you have plenty of time to sleep after you die”. Before coming out to greet her day, her nylons were in place neatly secured to her undergarments beneath one of her house dresses as she referred to them. These were cotton dresses all cut from the same pattern in varying fabrics, with short sleeves and a parade of buttons marching down the front. Specifically they were worn for working around the house to keep her good clothes from getting soiled. Up until she was in her eighties, when my mother finally convinced her pants on women were not the work of the devil, did I ever see my grandmother’s knees covered by anything other than a suit, skirt or dress.

The first order of business each morning was always to prepare my grandfather’s breakfast. A urologist, his days often began quite early. Breakfast was served to him on a tray each morning in bed, accompanied by his morning paper. Very health conscious, and dealing with some health concerns himself, the menu was shredded wheat with berries, a glass of juice, one half a grapefruit and a slice of whole grain toast. A small vase with one flower from the garden was added during the summer months next to a colorful little china pot filled with Gammy’s delicious homemade marmalade. Once my grandfather had opened his paper and begun to eat, she tended next to the needs of the smallest member of the family, namely myself. Eggs were often on the menu breakfast. They came dressed up in a variety of ways, my favorite to this day being Eggs Benedict, basically poached eggs perched atop a split English muffin then smothered with buttery Hollandaise sauce. Yum. These days no one has time to whip up homemade Hollandaise, or at least I don’t. Back then, there were no packages to buy at the store to add water to. If you wanted Hollandaise, you dragged out the double boiler and whipped up a batch yourself. Another way I loved eggs was soft boiled and served in an egg cup. The shell was left on with the top sliced through (it’s hat, as my grandmother would say) and you lifted it’s hat, and dipped your toast in the gooey yolk.

Funny how smells, tastes, sounds and pictures can trigger an immediate memory of perhaps an easier time or those you particularly enjoyed. Of course, these sensory reminders can also be of traumatic or unpleasant experiences, but I’m trying to look at the bright side of the moon at the moment so let’s stay there for a while. My memories are often associated with food it seems. Always I have loved to be in the kitchen. Although I have to admit these days I do find myself tiring of coming up with new dishes to tantalize my guests. As I’ve said before they need to introduce a new meat, or at least a new vegetable for those of us who love to cook to play with. Perhaps they’ll just create a new one. My granddaughter, a vegan through and through, says other than organic vegetables and not all of those, you don’t know anymore if the vegetable you’re eating is real or was created in a lab somewhere. I think we need a new blue something, something. At the moment blueberries are kind of holding down that fort all by themselves.

I bought the little egg cups as it turned out. Did I need them? Nope, not in the least, but want won that argument and they are sitting in my china cabinet waiting for a soft boiled egg to bring them back to a useful life.

This has been a rough year. I thought last year was full of potholes but that was just the preliminary match, and, unfortunately, this year seems to be the main event. I am working on my grateful self. I am grateful the virus seems to be getting under control. I am most grateful it got a hold of me and my partner Dale, and then threw us back relatively unharmed. I am grateful all my family and his, and my friends and his, are still here to talk about what a strange year it truly was. I am simply grateful for so many things.

On the downside of things, Dale, my partner and companion, has cancer. Being asked to be grateful about this is certainly an uphill climb. Rick, my partner in crime for nearly twenty years, as I’ve mentioned many times, passed away nearly three years ago from lung cancer. In a stroke of synchronicity even I find hard to grasp, Dale has been given the same dire diagnosis. The oxygen compressor is once again humming in my spare room and questions without answers are swirling and twirling about in my head.

So, I pull up some happy thoughts and fond, fond memories of being young and free and unaware of all the sadness that life insists on being peppered with. Memories, I always feel, are tucked away to be pulled out perhaps when you need a hug and don’t have one handy, or are feeling blue and want to remember the pure joy of laughing out loud. Memory really is such a gift, and probably one we take for granted. One of the hardest things for me is to watch my mum slowly loosing her grasp on all those wonderful mental highlights she has stored away over the years. I am her memory these days and I’m okay with that. Again, I lean to the side of gratefulness and remind myself she remembers my face and that alone is money in the bank.

Sorry if this post is a bit of a song with sad lyrics. Usually I am upbeat, but even a stand up comedienne has days when he or she can’t pull a joke out of the hat.

Have a good one. Remember to not put your “I love you’s” off until a better day, there is never a better day then today. Talk soon.


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Rolled over on my pillow this morning and opened my eyes to find a wee mouse face staring back at me. Boo, apparently, was having a restless evening and decided to invite a friend to sleep over. Thankfully, this mouse was of the stuffed variety. Had it been our other cat, Mouse, named appropriately, this story would have ended far differently. Mouse was a hunter by nature. We inherited her from our neighbors, who moved neglecting to leave a forwarding address for their cat. Can’t tell you how much I dislike that kind of behavior. Mouse came blasting up our driveway one morning yowling in distress, and within three weeks had moved into our guest room on the second floor, much to Boo’s disdain. Mouse was a street cat, in comparison to Boo for whom the only street she identifies with might be Rodeo Drive. Boo, would never reduce herself to catching her own food, but rather has hers delivered by her minion, namely me, in her pretty china bowl with her name engraved on the front.

I believe Boo brought me the thoughtful gift by way of telling me it was cold in the house. Though temperatures have been high in the area for this time of year, a winter storm is pushing over us and the thermometer has dropped considerably. Tomorrow is predicted to be in the fifties, as compared to close to ninety last week. Weird, weird, weather of late to go along with weird, weird everything else. The house was cold, as it turned out, not because the heater was off, that would be too easy. The house was cold in spite of the heater being turned on. Oh-oh. The lovely bonus of renting rather than owning a home, is when something goes wrong it is someone else’s responsibility. I have to say, I embrace this part of being a tenant with great enthusiasm. Texting my landlord, who lives across the street from me, he came over almost immediately and confirmed what I had told him, the heater was not going on. Coinciding nicely with Murphy’s Law, this always seem to happen on a Friday, just before a weekend. Also, it has been warm enough outside not to need heat until, yes, you guessed it, this weekend. Sigh. The repairman was not available until today, and if parts are needed, then the repair will have to wait until they arrive. Meanwhile, two small space heaters were brought over last night in case my teeth took to chattering.

It is hardly brutally cold, like east coast cold, but fifty is not swimsuit weather either. I’ll cross my fingers it is the thermostat that needs to be replaced and not something more complicated. Last summer the A/C went out in the middle of a heat wave (Murphy again) and we nearly stewed in our own juices. Thankfully, my landlords had a portable air conditioning unit at their disposal because the part to get the unit up and running (due to the pandemic) didn’t show up for nearly a month. Without the portable when found, we would have been but two oily puddles with underwear floating in the middle, oh and one small puddle with an abundance of white cat fur.

I do like the freedom owning your own home affords you. You don’t have to ask if you want to get a dog, or paint a wall. If the mood strikes you to paint your spare room royal blue, you do just that. Also, you are accruing equity in something you own rather than depositing your money in someone else’s retirement account every month. As I’ve said before, I do not get an “A” for planning for my golden years. It’s like that old saying, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself”. I think when you’re young, you can’t conceive of ever not being young. I first noticed the change in status when my doctor, while explaining a minor health problem I was dealing with, said to me, “well, this is to be expected as we age”. We age? Who’s aging? Moi? No, can it be so. But I guess I can’t ignore the reality, it can be so, and it is. I always quantify, however, I would rather be getting older then not getting anything at all, so there you go.

Lately I have been looking at my finances. I do this with one eye closed, sometimes both, and using a pair of tongs. Living in the moment is where I try to remain, but sometimes for practical reasons I have to look a little further down the road. My road, though I hope spanning many miles in front of me, isn’t going to find me rolling in prosperity or living in the lap, or even the the shin of luxury at this point. Rick and I cashed in my 401K early to get the restaurant going so that avenue has been cordoned off, and Rick is no longer here so his income is gone. Apparently, I have to pull on my big girl bloomers and figure something out myself. I have looked over my shoulder and don’t see anyone jumping up and down, arm raised, saying “I’ll do it”, so I’m assuming I’m the only man (or woman as the case may be) in the raft. Drat the luck. I have skills and certainly could fall back on my graphic art background. The idea of polishing up my resume and stepping back into the working world is about as appealing to me as crawling across a field of yellow jackets, but sometimes we have to do what we have to do. I’m thinking freelancing might be the ticket. Whatever it is I decide to take a shot at most likely I want to work from home. Fortunately, now is the prime time to do just that, so I will begin exploring some options sooner than later.

For today, as Scarlett might say, “Fiddle-de-dee, I’ll think about it tomorrow.” It’s the weekend and there’s a chill in the air, food in the cupboard, and a roof over my head. Life is good.

Whenever I think of air conditioning units I think of the south. I lived in Muscle Shoals, Alabama for a year in the 1990’s. Sent there for a short-term job, we needed to find accommodations allowing us to move before the year was up without involving a lease. my ex-husband and I located a lovely three bedroom brick home in a nice bedroom community which rented month-to-month. Perfect. To say it got hot in Alabama during the summer would be like describing a Ferrrari as a nice little luxury car. Hot, hot, hot. Air conditioning wasn’t a luxury when living there, it was a life or death choice. Thankfully, our landlords were diligent about keeping up their rentals so when we moved in the A/C was happily pumping out chilled air and the house was comfortable and welcoming. Once my husband got settled in at his new job I began the process of finding temporary work for the short time we would be in the state. We had one car at the time, because it was practical for our lifestyle. Construction bums of a sort, he worked for one company who shopped out his skills to jobs all across the U.S. Two vehicles meant we had two vehicles to move each time we relocated, and that we couldn’t ride together when on the road. Though it suited our purposes in that way, once settled in it made things a little more dicey if both of us wanted to work. Signed up with a temp agency, I was quickly placed at the local hospital in their infectious disease department. My duties included urine tests on new employees and random tests on current employees making me about as popular as the plague. After doing this for several weeks I came to believe it wasn’t that I was chosen first out of a group of candidates but rather the only one willing to take the job.

My husband got a ride to work each day with another pipe fitter living just around the corner. That freed me up to take the car to work. It was old, even by classic standards, and a boat. The chassis seemed to extend for miles beyond the front window. When you rode over a pothole you glided rather than bumped over it. The front seat was a bench seat and the car so massive I had to use a makeshift adult booster seat to allow my feet to reach the pedals. Another distinct liability was the A/C came on and went off at whim, making it like driving in a tomb on extremely hot, and always unpleasantly humid summer days. Often by the time I reached home, a 40 minute commute, my face would be lit up like a ripe tomato. During one particularly hot spell, I actually had to pull over at the mall and get a cold drink and cool down half way through my trip each night to keep from ending up prostrate by the side of the road. People who hail from Canada are not meant for hot, sticky climates. We’re just not built for it.

Just before we were set to move on to our next assignment, the old beater finally decided to admit defeat and refused to go into any gear but reverse. Had we wished to back our way all the way to West Virginia, this would have been handy, but otherwise this put us in a situation. The neighborhood we lived in was friendly. We knew most of our neighbors by name and well enough to stop and carry on a conversation, and some we socialized with. One family, directly across the street from us, was more of the “hi, how are y’all doing today” variety than the let’s break bread together variety. Nevertheless, seeing the hood up on the car seemed to trigger a visceral response in the men in the area, and pretty soon there were four or five heads bent over the cars internals discussing the situation. Turns out the car needed a new transmission, among a long list of other things I’m sure. Had it been human, my doctor would have repeated his statement mentioned above. Transmissions were not a cheap fix I was given to understand. What I know about the workings of the combustion engine could be jammed into the head of a straight pin with plenty of room left over. As it turned out, our neighbor knew a guy, who knew a guy, who had a wrecking yard. Heads were scratched, calls were made, and pretty soon my husband and Bud, as I came to know him, were off to pick up a replacement transmission in the nearest big city, about a two hour drive. As we were to leave in two days, work began on the car as soon as they got back. Men came and went, the sound of beer cans being opened and electric drills filled the air, and the testosterone was so thick in the front yard I hesitated to step out and offer food lest the hair on my legs grow two inches before getting safely back in the house. Somehow, the old trannie (their word) got pulled (also their word) and the new one dropped in. Quite a feat in the time constraints and in a yard, the story would be told. All Bud would take for his efforts was a steak dinner with all the trimmings, which I made happen before we hit the road.

In my life there have always been angels who showed up just in the nick of time before despair ruled the day. I feel quite blessed to have them around and perhaps even more so in the strange times we currently find ourselves in. I’m sure you have a few of your own whether you’re aware they are there or not. Keep your eyes open next time you find yourself approaching the high water mark.

Have a great weekend!!

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The thermometer is going to push 90 degrees here, in what feels like perpetually sunny California of late. Another drought plagued season in this beautiful state will not bode well for what our firefighters will face as the inevitable summer heat presses down on us. Sigh. Already we had the first power outage of the season in our area Sunday. Predictably, the power went off right around dinner time. Not late enough in the day to have dinner prepared and on the table, but rather right in the middle of cooking time for my pork loin in the oven, and pot of corn on the cob happily boiling on the stove top. Fortunately, it came back on before we either had to order in, or label our dinner an early breakfast. Typical. If not in the middle of the meal, the power is guaranteed to go off immediately after I’ve purchased a large amount of groceries and meat at Costco. It’s like a signal goes off from the cash register directly to the power grid reading “Susie will be storing $300 worth of perishables in her refrigerator. Initiate two day shutdown protocol”. I have a generator my son gave me to use when when an outage occurs. They seem to be coming more and more often which each passing year. Summer before last, I threw out an entire refrigerator full of food three times. At least that is not a worry I will have going into this summer, hopefully. I have never used a generator before. From what I understand, you have to be careful how you use them, because if they are too close to the house or are used in an poorly ventilated area, they can prove lethal. This, I have to say, makes me a bit less enthusiastic about a trial run with the damnable thing. Being one of those people who can get her finger stuck in a manual can opener, anything with the word lethal in the precautionary hazards, is a bit worrisome to me. I am working hard on holding my grateful place so rather than complain, I will look for a positive spin to this. Let’s see, I am thankful I am blessed to have a new generator with which to off myself with. I’ll leave it at that. Good old PG&E.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks at my house for some unknown reason. Though not in a bad mood, I also haven’t been my usual sunny self. Could be spring fever, or cabin fever, or simply part of emerging like a pupa from a cocoon after a long period of hibernation, I don’t know. Seems a lot of friends and close acquaintances I’ve talked to lately are going through some transitional pains while beginning merge back into public gatherings again as well. I went out to lunch with a friend of mine on Friday. Both of us noted, sitting inside at a table felt both familiar and strange at the same time. Certainly it looked different. Notably, while we waited for our order to arrive, there was nothing on top of our table but our elbows. No napkins, utensils or condiments, as I would have expected to see pre-pandemic. When my friend asked for salt and pepper, a pile of small packets on a plate were delivered to the table. I’m so glad we didn’t own our restaurant during something like this. Restaurant ownership on the best of days is a stressful existence, but trying to work with these kind of restrictions must be like trying to do up the laces on your running shoes with your hands tied behind your back.

People ask me often if I would want to own a restaurant again. That, I have to say, is an answer requiring little deliberation on my part. NO!!!! Sorry. Was that too loud? Now, my response would be much different was I asked, “are you glad you owned a restaurant”? That answer would be a resounding, “yes”. It was an experience like no other in my life. I am both thankful to have been a part of it, and even more thankful to have come out the other end. Rick was the one carrying all the restaurant experience both going in, and going out. What knowledge I had about restaurants was limited to where to go to get the best Cobb salad, or where not to go for bad Chinese. However, by osmosis, I soaked up information along the way and managed to learn some of the ins and outs of the business for the two years we were open. Who knew? Not I certainly. I didn’t even have the usual street creds young people have on their resumes like “Waitress” or “Server”. Other than a brief, and might I add highly unsuccessful, Memorial Day weekend cocktail waitress debacle on Martha’s Vineyard in my early twenties, I was totally a restaurant virgin.

You know, rethinking my answer about ever owning a restaurant again, I have to say I have day dreamed about a little place that just served breakfast and lunch somewhere by the sea. Even perhaps a lunch truck of some description. I’ve also thought I’d like to work or run a bed and breakfast by the coast one day, but these thoughts are definitely can be found under the “dream on” column of my to do list unless I either hit the jackpot or marry well in the future.

Lately, the ocean has really dominated my thoughts. How I miss it. Sometimes it is an actually longing, like missing someone you love. For me, growing up smack up against water on all sides, it became a part of me, and, I, in turn, became a part of it. The Atlantic, where I grew up, is a far different beast than the peaceful Pacific here on the west coast. That is why people flock here, I would suppose, to enjoy the endless coastline decorated with long stretches of white sandy beaches, warm waters, and gorgeous sun soaked vistas. If one can afford it, of course. In my case, one can’t. Both oceans, to my eyes, have their own style of beauty and mystery.

The Atlantic always felt to me a far more angry stretch of water than the Pacific, harboring (no pun intended) darker moods and deeper hues. The sea, depending on you location, shows itself in many ways. The waters surrounding Hawaii, for example, have a light and yes, tropical, feel to them. Almost as though they know they are playing in paradise and wish to reflect the mood. The ocean there is a clear azure blue. When walking into the surf on Waikiki Beach the water was so translucent my feet were clearly visible on the sand below me.

I also enjoyed the beaches in Ft. Lauderdale, during my one and only visit there. Florida offered up some prime coastal experiences. If it wasn’t for the extreme humidity, frequent hurricanes, outrageously large insects, and flourishing alligator population, Florida undoubtedly would be a great place to live. If I was disposed to move to that part of the U.S., which I am not, I would prefer to live on the Keys. Key West is the only one I’ve visited but that would suit me just fine. Each night I would find my way down to the beach and sit with the locals enjoying the glorious sunsets and possibly indulging in a little cracked crab washed down by an icy margarita. My mouth is watering simply imagining it. Massachusetts had some nice coastal stops as well. Cape Cod waters are far more brooding and dark, the beaches there wearing a more windswept and scruffy look. Cape Cod, I believe would be a lovely place to write a novel or find oneself after being lost.

If I cannot be there right now, I can at least remember times that I have been. Memories are such lovely parts of our makeup. I’m glad whoever shaped our existence thought to include them in the factory rollout package. At times they can be both a curse and a blessing depending on the content, but being able to bring up the pleasant times in our lives like slides on a screen and to recall the smells, feelings, and colors of our experiences is a wondrous gift I have to say. Like pictures in an album, our memories lose their clarity and richness as the years pass. Still, they can be called up to be revisited from time to time and bring us joy. Often, I feel sad for my mum to have lost so many memories over the last few years, but dementia knows no master. Truly, I am blessed I am one face she never seems to forget.

So with thoughts of the sea on my mind, I am definitely adding a trip to the coast over the summer months. It’s about a four hour drive, which isn’t too much of a stretch. Rick and I often went to Little River, one of my favorite spots. Situated atop the craggy bluffs south of Mendocino, Little River is more a dot on the map than a thriving metropolis, only boasting a bustling population of 117. I have not gone there since he passed and am not sure how I will feel when I do. I do know I will go again when I’m ready, because it is such a beautiful place to visit. When we are left behind, it is up to us to find joy in the time we have, and I know he would always want me to do that.

Anyhow, I’ll leave you with thoughts of sea breezes, calling gulls, salty smells, and foghorns until next time.

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Sleep is not a happy place for me these days for whatever reason. I suppose I could blame this on the pandemic. Why not? Everything these days seems to be blamed on the virus. If I do sleep, my dreams, if I’m lucky enough to achieve that level of deep sleep, are plagued with crazy scenarios and angst filled situations. Last night I was at a doctor’s appointment. There were two men in white coats attending to me, and neither of them were happy with my person. The individual I identified with as being the head cheese, if you will, was an insipid little man who kept rolling his eyes at me when I made a statement as if I was a ridiculous person who had never said a word worthy of paying any attention to. Hmmmm. What, one might ask, is this dream trying to tell me? I put my purse down on the chair next to me and a team of cleaning people rushed into the examining room, whisked up the offending purse, plopped it in my lap, and proceeded to de-lice the entire area around where I was sitting. Thank you? The doctor kept reading aloud out of my chart in almost a whisper. Since I am not a lip reader, I kept saying I couldn’t hear him, triggering another round of eye rolling in both men. Fine. Finally, I determined he was saying I was very ill. According to his version of the story he’d told me this last visit and I hadn’t paid attention. Huh. As I found this a little off putting at 3 a.m., I woke myself up. Lying under the sheets now feeling totally unsettled, I padded into the kitchen and pushed “brew” on the coffee pot. Coffee makes everything better, or at least it does for me. There is something so satisfying in taking that first sip off of your morning cup of freshly brewed beans. It’s like that first bite of an In ‘n Out cheeseburger. That first sip, or that first bite, always seems the most satisfying of the lot.

Love is sort of that way as well, don’t you think? In the beginning so new, so fresh, so full of promise. That golden glow when a couple is first discovering each other. The honeymoon period before there are shared experiences of piles of dirty laundry, overdue bills, hours spent walking the floor with a crying baby, nights hung over a toilet after eating bad Chinese. Just two people totally wrapped up in one another. If we started at the other end of the spectrum when we first met and worked our way back to the beginning most likely there wouldn’t be as many babies to walk the floor with in the middle of the night.

I come to this avenue of thought because Prince Phillip passed away. He and Queen Elizabeth were married for 73 years. I always wonder what the secret is to the extreme longevity of some relationships. I’m sure part of it, probably a large chunk, is compromise, patience, and a certain amount of me time. Now in their case, I would also suppose their union did not suffer breaches from the usual make or break moments we commoners do. The only breeches in their lives covered their behinds while galloping along well manicured polo fields. One of the top reasons couples fight is money, and in their case I feel I can say safely they weren’t sweating their next mortgage payment on Buckingham Palace. Still, whether your coffers are well padded or not, some natural leaks occur in the dam in all marriages, I should think after years and years of waking up to the same person on the pillow next to you. The lives of royals would be totally unique, of course. Queen Elizabeth would not be wiling away her days trying out a new dish soap for grease control, or sewing curtains for the spare room. One could only imagine what life might look like beyond the palace walls when the cameras weren’t rolling or the servants not present in one of the many common rooms. The Queen said he was her rock. As the women in my family were wont to say, “lovely”. Sometimes I got more of a slippery slope of pebbles and loose gravel feel from the men in my life, but that’s for another blog another day.

After all those years losing a spouse would be like using a part of yourself I would imagine. So many shared experiences and memories would have been created together they must feel like they’d lost half of their whole. My kids dad died at thirty-three. I remember at the time thinking, no matter where I went in the world I would never see his face again. Death is such a final note, you have to lean in on your faith in whatever you believe once that door is shut to make have the end of the song make sense. Faith, for each of us is a very personal thing. I try never to ask anyone to walk my walk nor do I opt to walk theirs when it comes to the hereafter so I shall leave it at that.

After Rick died, a friend gifted me with an “Angel Reading”. Basically, an angel reading is a visit with a psychic who tunes into the guides and angels surrounding you. I am very open to all ways of thinking when it comes to this, largely because no one up to this point has come up with the definitive answer to what actually occurs. That being said, I am willing to look at all options lying on the table. I do know for sure after he passed away there were signs everywhere he was still in the neighborhood. Several months after he was gone, a realtor friend of mine took me to look at this wonderful little house for sale in a neighboring town. At the time I was toying with the idea of buying rather than renting, before deciding renting offered me less restrictions. In one room of the house, the owner had decorated the bed and shelves with pillows and pictures with handwritten messages scrawled across them. My friend noticed even before I did, every one was either something Rick regularly said to me and several contained a nickname he used for me “little one”. Both of us just stood there in that room for the longest time amazed. It was as if he had written me a love note. I’ll never forget it. Truly I almost put an offer in on the house because of it. Another odd occurrence during that meeting was the “angel reader” was she mentioned Rick came and sat on the end of our bed. This gave me goosebumps. They began at my toenails and worked their way up to the top of my skull. As I have said ad nauseum, I am very neat. When I make a bed, that bed gets made. A military sergeant could stop by and I bet I’d pass inspection. I was a motel maid for a year in my misspent youth, and I after making twenty beds a day got pretty efficient at it. But, I digress. Anyhow, each day I would make the bed, no wrinkles, no bumps. My grandmother made her bed every morning before relieving herself. She told me it was in case she died while on the toilet, and whoever picked her up for in the meat wagon noticed her covers askew. Again, I’m off to the left here. Each day after I made the bed, an hour or so later, or whenever I went in the room next, I would notice at his end of the bed there would be what I would call a perfect “bum print” on the blanket. I can’t explain it, but I assure you for the first month or so it was there like clockwork, and then one day it wasn’t. It never was there again after that day. Go figure. Perhaps he stayed to make sure I was all right before going on to where he had to go. That being the case or not, it makes me to happy to think it was him checking in one last time.

Quite often partners sharing so many years together pass away close to one another. One departs, and the other literally dies of a broken heart. According to the news stories, the Queen has been preparing for the loss of her husband for some time. I thought I was prepared as well. I knew that I would lose Rick months before the actual day he died. But, you are never really prepared for such a catastrophic occurrence in your life, I don’t think. Perhaps knowing it is coming gives you time to plan, but I’m not sure it eases the pain of losing someone you love when it actually occurs. Death is as much a part of life as breathing and a heartbeat, yet we know so little about it. It is not a subject we here in America are comfortable with, so I shall move on to lighter fare.

To veer off the highway on another subject entirely, I have had my vaccinations and am ready to do a little exploring. The new man in my life at the hails originally from Montana. Born with the wind in my sails, I have been fortunate enough to cross the U.S. and Canada numerous times, but Montana is one state I have never stepped foot in and would love to add to my list of those visited. The big sky country, as it is referred to because it is told the sky seems more blue and more vast when in Montana. Sounds lovely (in the summer), and I am looking forward to seeing it. It would not be for me in the winter. Winters there are brutal and I am done with digging myself out of anything other than a huge plate of curly fries. A road trip is my favorite way to travel. Truth be told I’m a poor cruiser. I don’t like being stuck on a huge ship with nowhere to go but above deck or below, with a group of people I’ve never met, and nothing to do but eat. I prefer to have the freedom road travel provides. It’s wonderfully unburdening to be able to stop whenever the mood strikes you or go wherever the wind moves you. Though I do enjoy flying, when in an airplane all you see is the city below as you ascend and another city when you descend. Otherwise, most of the time the view out the window is clouds, clouds, oh, and did I mention clouds? If I’m in the mood to get somewhere fast, flying is the obvious choice, but at the moment there is nothing pressing getting me to get from point A to point B, so I prefer driving along at whatever speed I choose to drive and getting there whenever I do.

Another mode of transportation I enjoy is going by train. When I was four, my mother and I boarded the Trans-Canada train in Montreal and went west all the way to Vancouver before stepping back off. What a wonderful trip that was. Though very young, I can picture myself kneeling on the plush cushions in the Pullman car, face pressed against the window, watching the glorious vistas of the snow capped Rocky Mountains whizzing by.

At any rate, as you might have noticed I’m all over the map today. Wish that were more literal than figurative, but for now, I shall plan my trip and look forward to finally seeing something beyond whatever lies within a twenty-five mile radius of this house even if only in my unsettled dreams.

The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they are gone. – George Eliot

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I am an only. My mother always enjoyed telling people she originally hoped to have six children, but once I arrived on the scene, she decided one was more than enough. Whatever, Mom. She calls me her “only chick”. Seems appropriate, as most of my life she’s leaned toward being a bit of a mother hen. Whatever the situation, however, she has steadfastly remained my number one fan. I strained this position often. There was the time I blew up the kitchen making mini tacos, or another when I forgot to remove the speaker attached to the window of her new car at the drive-in before exiting the parking lot. Undaunted, she still picked up her pom poms and cheered me on. Being an only chick does not come without the onus of responsibility. As an “only” you carry the torch for those kids who didn’t come before you or those not arriving after you. At one time or another you will be the oldest, the youngest, the best, the worst, the smartest, the dumbest, the happiest, the saddest, the tallest, the shortest, the fattest and the thinnest child your parents will ever have. Faithfully, I lived up to each of these adjectives during my tenure as my mother’s only daughter. Some days, depending on how the wind was blowing, I might have qualified for the whole set on either the plus or the minus side.

My childhood, well up until middle school, would have satisfied the “fattest” portion of the program. Mother referred to my extra padding as “baby fat”, although I had moved beyond the baby fat when my diapers and crocheted hat had been retired. My grandmother, in whose house I had been raised, liked to bake. I was her perfect foil, I liked to eat. A match made in heaven. Living in Nova Scotia, where I made my home until the age of nine, I don’t think I was even aware I was “chubby”. My world was buffered by loving family members and childhood friends. If they felt I was a little round about the edges, they were kind enough to keep that information to themselves. Immediately after celebrating my ninth birthday, my mother remarried. Hoping for a fresh start, and armed with a new last name and a promise of a job at a Southern California newspaper for my new “dad”, the idea of relocating permanently to California was born. To soothe the blow of being uprooted from my childhood home for me, the carrot dangled before my nose was Disneyland. Television was not uncommon in everyone’s homes by then. Children with access to a set, tuned in to the Wonderful World of Disney each week to be part of the magic kingdom Walt Disney had created. Disneyland was for us on the far east coast a dream land. A place built for the young and the young at heart with all manner of rides and excitement available to anyone who could afford the price of a pack of tickets at the gate. Back then it was nothing like it is today. The Matterhorn was still being constructed (I know – old as dirt here) the first time I visited. At the gate you bought books of tickets.They went from A-E. “A” tickets got you on the less popular rides and as you moved on thru B-D you moved up in fun an popularity until you got to “E” tickets which gained you entrance to the more exciting rides such as the Matterhorn once it was open. That first time at the park my mom spent $50, including meals and souvenirs. These days you’d have nearly that much out of your wallet just to pay the parking attendant. I haven’t been recently but I’ve heard there are very long lines and much expense involved in a trip. The endless lines don’t call my name anymore and if I’m going to drop a load of bills it probably won’t be to see Mickey and Minnie dancing down Main Street. I’m just saying. However, the memories of past visits are nice to paste in my memory book.

Even with the promised visit to Disneyland it didn’t take long for me to identify little plump Canadian girls were out of step with the golden girls of California. Blond goddesses, with slender bodies and golden skin. Lane Bryant would never have been an acceptable place to shop for anyone basking in the glow of their inner circles. Around middle school I began to realize I wanted to lose weight. My mother, aware of my struggle with food, stepped in to help. The baby fat had remained steadfastly in place. Knowing I was unhappy with my extra pounds, she offered me a challenge over the summer between eighth and ninth grade. First, she had a dietician at the hospital where she worked draw up a healthy diet plan for me to follow. The second part of the program was a contract between my mother and I agreeing she would pay me one dollar for each pound I lost, plus throw in a whole new wardrobe once my goal weight was achieved. Hey, a dollar a pound was pretty good back then, when a McDonald’s cheeseburger still went for fifteen cents. Aside from the forty dollars I pocketed, and the closet full of lovely new clothes, that shift in my eating habits was to be the beginning for me of a lifetime of healthy eating. Up until that time, I considered cookies, Hostess cupcakes and Twinkies a separate food group.

Conquering my perceived weight issues to some extent, I next slipped quietly into another phase of my young life. I went from being a nearly straight “A” student considered fairly “bright” in some circles, to barely advancing from ninth to tenth grade. This, satisfying the smartest and dumbest part of the adjective string noted above. The reason was not so much I actually became more stupid as the years passed, but rather I discovered boys in my world. Certainly I knew they were around prior to puberty, but viewed them as those annoying little dweebs in class making gassy noises with their hands under their armpits or pulling my hair at recess. Suddenly I saw them in a whole new light. Instead of making me irritated, they made me shy, made my heart beat a little faster, and generally swept me off my saddle shoed feet. Friends, dances, music, dates, proms, and all the other things high school brought to the forefront all stood first in line in front of learning, which had had somehow been demoted to the caboose.

in spite of the diversions and defying all odds I received my diploma. This was not without a few detours and blips on the screen which I will discuss at a later time. After graduation, I enrolled in computer science classes at the junior college, while also managing to obtain my first job. A local moving company had taken me on as a clerk typist in their dispatch office. My salary was to be $300 a month gross. These days that wouldn’t cover groceries.


Balancing a job during the day, and classes at night, didn’t leave much room for socializing. That being said, I still managed to announce my engagement to my first husband before lighting the candles on my nineteenth birthday. He and I had a shared history of eleven days of courtship when I made the announcement to my parents. Was my mother writing this chapter, she would pull the “worst” out of the adjective chain to cover this happy news. Cajoling ensued, bribes were offered, and begging was not off the table. Love, in the end, conquered all, and a date was set and plans were made for a wedding eight months down the road. Pulling the best out if the string to keep things even, we would fast forward to two and a half years later when my husband and I had welcomed a daughter and a son into our lives. We were only destined to share eight years of marriage, but the gift from him has always been these two special beings who have made my life so special.

I have spent most of my time living up to people’s expectations, sometimes even exceeding them, or being an abysmal disappointment. Balance, as I often say, in everything. Today I can say I am the oldest child, and I’m good with that. A little gray around the temples (okay a lot) and some scuff on my shoes may show some mileage, but also I hope they are an indication I have some acquired wisdom and character. I’ve earned what wrinkles are evident by smiling often, accepting some devastating losses, and surviving the trip.

Have a great day. A new president enters the White House and again we turn the page to a new chapter,

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This promises to be a more than mildly interesting month. On the 20th, our new president will step up to the podium for the first time in his new role. This week, our sitting president was impeached for the second time, making him the first president for the history books to receive such an honor. The scent of change lingers in the air, commingled with the unsettling murmurs of unrest. On the 6th of this month, citizens of the United States laid siege to the capital building for the purpose of attacking their fellow Americans, resulting in the loss of five lives. Covid-19 still rules the teleprompters at the news centers with people succumbing to it in record numbers. 2020, to most people’s minds a year of firsts and uneven lines, may have nothing on 2021.

There is a lot of information floating around in our world at the moment. Conspiracy theories are blowing up among the far right fueled by bad intel fed by people in positions of trust. The recent uprising in Washington D.C. highlights how quickly information can be spread, be it truth or lies, with the technology available to almost everyone these days. Distorted or tweaked information can move across the nation at lightning speed, changing and morphing depending on who is passing it on and in what direction their general belief structure might lean. Let’s face it, what you want to hear, generally is the easiest news to accept.

All this twisted truth reminds me of a game we used to play as kids. Seated in a large circle, one person was selected to go first. They whispered a sentence of their choosing in the ear of whoever was seated next to them. In turn, that person passed on what they heard to the next person, and so on. When it reached the person last in line, they repeated aloud what they had heard. The more people in the circle, the more distorted the original message tended to become. How much the intent of the original statement changed by the time it was repeated by the last player, always surprised me.

Gossip moves along at warp speed as well. As it moves along the information highway passing from one friend or associate to another, it grows and shifts from the original story depending on the person sharing the story and their point of view. There’s positive tale telling. For example, “Did you hear Penelope’s daughter got married? I hear the ceremony was just beautiful.” As always there are two sides to the coin. If there is positive, stands to reason there will be negative. People’s lives have been virtually destroyed by people spreading malicious or untrue information about them. Gossip is an insidious undertaking. Conspiratol in nature, it usually gets going when one person is chosen as the target for several peoples wagging tongues. It may be based on fact, it may be based on perception, or lastly, it could be fabricated ideas springing forth from a person’s imagination. Whether one, two, or three of the above is true, often it can prove hurtful for the person being talked about and always it reflects on the character of those doing the talking. Now, I’m not going to say I have never gossiped. If I did, you would probably be shaking your heads saying “Come on, Susie. We know better”. I don’t like to gossip, but sometimes I get drawn into a story or pass one on when I would be better served just to keep my nose firmly centered in my own business rather than sniffing about in others. My daughter always tells me I’m no fun to gossip with. Usually I defend the person being talked about, or don’t participate with enough enthusiasm to make it entertaining for the other parties.

Gossip can be simple simple neighborhood stuff, fairly innocent in nature. The sort of offhand comments one might hear said, say, after church service, from one person to the next. Things like, “Did you see the dress Sharon had on today? They really shouldn’t use bold prints on larger sizes.” If Sharon heard that comment she might have her feelings hurt or even get rid of the dress. If she knew the source of the comment she might choose to avoid the ladies who said it. Most of the time this type of gossip doesn’t do significant damage. Lately in our country, however, we are slinging insults and meanness around like it was a free for all. The truth is manipulated according to how it will serve the person saying it. Seems like there are no boundaries any more as to what we will do or say in the name of country. Our moral compass has gone askew and the leaders in government have become so divided. Left unguided by the powers that be, it leaves our lives seeming to lack direction and without a clear understanding of which direction we are headed. It reminds me of the atrocities during the middle ages perpetuated by powerful men in the name of the church. Very little “Christian” behavior was exhibited during the so called holy wars.

I always told my children, “Be careful what you say. Words are powerful tools. Once you wield them, you cannot take them back.” This includes the written word. When you commit your words to paper, email, text, social media, wherever, they become part of the fabric. You cannot remove the stitches and start over again. Apologies are helpful, but when it comes to a grave situation such as is occurring in our nation’s capitol now, just saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t really erase the debt.

Being responsible for your actions is at the top of my list. If you have done something, own it. It is yours and all the finger pointing, diversion, and avoiding it does make it any less so. I remember when my son was small I took him with me into a convenience store while I picked up a couple of things I needed. When we walked up to the cashier, I handed the man behind the counter my items. After ringing the items up he said, “Is that all?”. I nodded my head in the affirmative. Then he said, “I don’t think so”. I had no idea what the man was talking about. He pointed to my little boy standing at my side. A very red and embarrassed face looked back up at me. What? “Check his pockets”, the man went on. My son, turning his pockets out, handed me about 6 packages of chewing gum with baseball cards he had apparently liberated from the store’s shelves. Oh-oh. I told the man I would pay for the pilferage and he added the cards to my bag. Once outside, my son and I stood at the trash can and opened each package and deposited the contents one by one into the bin. In the car, I told him he would pay for the cards out of his allowance until he had paid for them in full. He always remembered that lesson.

It’s so easy to look at other people’s behavior and point a finger or consider yourself right and them wrong. At this point I think it is paramount to figure out how to include more than one way to win the game in the playbook and come to some sort of middle ground while cohabiting in this large and diverse country. Personally, I think we need to reboot the United States much in the same way you would a TV or a computer. Go back, slow down the rhetoric, and reduce the steam coming out of the pot. Bang the drum slowly.

My thoughts for a Friday. Make it a safe one. I will go back to my usual writing now, but I felt like everyone involved in this craziness right now either becomes part of the solution, or remains part of the problem.

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Here we are four days after Christmas and my holiday decorations are still happily twinkling away. So not like me this behavior. The tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving, and comes down the day after Christmas. My best friend asked me why I feel the need to this. Why? There has to be a why? If I were to hazard a guess it’s because I’m a bit of an order hound at times. Order and having things where they are supposed to be is important to me. I’m not sure why actually. I don’t perform at my optimum when chaos abounds. My children remember me doing this when they were young so this has been my mantra for as long as they can remember. So firmly is this ingrained in me, I’ve thought of having a tee shirt made to wear for the occasions. But for this tradition, as with for so many other “normals” in 2020, it seems I have thrown the playbook out the door. The tree has brought me great joy over this unusual holiday season, and I intend to hold on to that happy feet feeling at least until the new year is rung in.

There’s always a little depression that settles over me once all the decorations are tucked away in their boxes for another year. The hustle and bustle of the holidays, with all the memories (good and bad) behind me, and a fresh new year unfolding with all it’s expectations and disappointments waiting to be revealed. I missed Rick especially this year, not that I don’t always feel his absence. I can’t imagine what he would have thought of all that is going on, but I certainly wouldn’t have wanted him to go through a cancer battle with all this other stuff floating around in the air.

I got to thinking this morning. I know! Sunday is my thinking day. I try not to immerse myself in too much heavy thinking the rest of the week. However, I have to devote at least one day a week to actual deep thinking in order not to fall off the edge of reason completely. It seems to me we have a harder time fighting or believing in the dangers of Covid mainly because it cannot be seen. In this case we have to have “faith” in our scientists and medical personnel to guide us in the right direction. Webster defines faith as “a firm belief in something for which there is no proof“. In the case of the virus, we do have proof. Our scientists and medical professionals are detailing the facts of the seriousness of this pandemic for us on one channel or another all day long. Hospital wards are overflowing and our loved ones are getting sick, or worse case scenario, dying. More proof. Still, the “enemy”, if you will, remains invisible. An opponent so small as to not be perceived by the naked eye, yet capable of pervading every part of our world with the sole intent of infecting human bodies and disabling it’s hosts. Not a good actor, not a good actor at all.

It seems hard to remember a time we weren’t either talking about the virus or hearing about it in the media. I feel like a sailor lost at sea for months and yearning to see dry land on the horizon. I am looking forward to sticking my arm out for my vaccination (hopefully with minimal side effects) and getting on with it.

It will be interesting to see how the transition from one president to another transforms. I surely wouldn’t want the job, and admire anyone with the willingness to serve signs up.

On the home front, admittedly my home front, I am dealing with several after Christmas dilemmas. First, my mother is in a bed and board twenty-five minutes from the house. I visit her once or twice a week. When I do, I have to follow strict Covid rules including maintaining a safe distance from her and having both a face mask and shield in place. Though the dementia keeps the threat of the virus quite far removed from her on an emotional level, it still manages to create some ripples in the water on a physical level. Because they have to follow state guidelines in these facilities to the letter, the residents, or inmates as I prefer to call them, are unable to eat together in this facility as they don’t have a large enough space to accommodate them if seated the required six feet apart. This lack of socialization is exacting a toll on them in the same way children are experiencing isolation symptoms by being virtually schooled without benefit of classmates. Also a difficult wrinkle, I cannot hug her. This is something we were used to doing, and used to doing often. To add another nail to the board (sorry, the word coffin gives me goosies) she can’t go out with me for our weekly lunch and hairdresser appointments thus shrinking her world to an even tighter fit. Truly she amazes me. She breezed through Covid with the other residents, with only one of them, the only male, showing any significant symptoms. Even he, has returned from the hospital and is on the mend. Wow.

Dementia patients display all manner of symptoms as their confusion deepens. In Mother’s case, she has developed a fascination for Kleenex. Her enjoyment of the product is to such an extent, the manufacturer sent us a holiday card saying, “Thank you for your patronage. Your family’s support has managed to allow our company to remain afloat during these trying times.” You’re welcome. How one small woman can manage the tissue consumption she does, almost defies comprehension. If I didn’t know it not to be true, I would believe she is either consuming the sheets or running a black market Internet tissue site on the side. Not only does she put the tissues to the obvious use, but she also stores them in drawers, crevices and pockets, folds them, and generally just loves the stuff. Puzzled about such strange behavior, I looked this up and was surprised to find it not unusual for someone with dementia to have tissue issues (if you will). Some sufferers prefer paper towels, and many like to fold and refold dish towels or simply enjoy manipulating pieces of paper. According to my reading, some of this bizarre repetitive behavior may be attributed to boredom. Makes perfect sense to me. Mother has always been a very active person. A “doer” one might say of her. For her it must be absolute torture to be trapped in a wheel chair as well as being limited to the walls of the house she lives in. Her thinking may be a little askew these days, but I’m sure she still has well defined feelings going on inside. Poor Mama. It is terribly difficult to watch your parents lose their independence. While visiting I discussed my concerns about the boredom with her caregiver. Surely, there has to be a way to stimulate these shut ins? From what I looked up, games, music, reading to them, anything is better than sitting in a chair waiting for the grass to grow. Soooooo, we’re going to embark on some new ideas, imbue a little fresh blood such as I suggested in the paragraph above about Washington D.C. Sometimes when you have cooked the same recipe over and over it helps to have a new chef taste it add a new spice or two to liven things up. I even suggested music or dancing. This suggestion immediately got a negative response. “Why not”, I asked? They may have a few wires crossed but are not incapable of understanding simple concepts. Dancing, or so I’ve read, and music, are good for the mind and soul. I looked at my mother and raised my arms over my head. She watched me curiously for a moment, then put her arms up over her head. “That’s the spirit, Mama”, I thought! I moved my arms from side to side, then wiggled my fingers back and forth next adding a little foot tapping for emphasis. Quickly she got the idea and before long we were dancing. Perhaps Fred and Ginger weren’t turning over in their graves, but at least we were bustin’ a few moves as my grandson might say. Hah. So, keeping her interested and engaged is high on my to-do list for 2021.

The second dilemma concerns returning gifts to the stores. I’m feeling blessed this year my friends and loved ones gave me some lovely gifts, but a few have to be returned due to size issues. According to gift receipts included, these exchanges must be done in-store. In a normal year I’d just go to the store, get in line, and return them. This year I’m not sure that’s the plan I want to follow. Even though I’ve already had the virus, they really don’t know if that insures you can’t be reinfected. With the vaccine out there tantalizingly near I don’t want to take the chance of getting sick again before I have access to it. Not exactly a weighty problem, however, one I’m mulling over in my head this morning.

As we step hesitantly into this upcoming year I carry in my backpack a bag of hope. Hope for a rainy season to soak the ground and keep the fires at bay. Hope the vaccination is received by enough citizens to establish herd immunity and keep this damnable virus as bay allowing us to get back to a semblance of normal. Hope that this new administration helps to heal the wounds this country has sustained, and hope that people will come together once again in spite of their differences and work for the good of the whole.

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Contracting this damnable virus has put my life on hold for the past two weeks. Accomplishing even normal tasks such as doing a few dishes in the sink or picking up clutter feel like monumental tasks. I am so grateful I’m not in a hospital somewhere hooked up to a machine to guarantee my next breath, but have to admit it’s difficult for a neatnik such as myself to deal with watching my house getting totally out of control. My dust bunnies have their own little garden to play in under my kitchen table and Miss Boo has gone completely rogue and has distributed her rather large family of stuffed mice all over the living room carpet. Let’s don’t even discuss the lovely layer of accumulated dust now decorating every surface. Seriously, let’s don’t discuss it.

I bought a turkey in spite of being ill. According to the directions it wouldn’t be cooking itself. Too bad, this year I would have paid extra for that. I ordered a very small bird – 10-12 pounds, but because people are leaning towards smaller gatherings this year there aren’t many small birds to go around. Consequently, I got a very large bird who’s drumsticks provided enough meat for myself and my roomie alone not taking into account the rest of the meat on the bird. I can see turkey soup, turkey casserole, and turkey sandwiches looming in my future. Truth is my appetite is not what it could be right now. Thankfully, my sense of taste and smell is beginning to slowly return to normal. For an old foodie like me, this is a happy situation.

People are traveling this holiday in spite of dire predictions of what is to come if they do. The urge to be with our families I guess supercedes good sense. Perhaps, if I hadn’t just gone through this siege with COVID, I might have been more inclined myself. For me, having experienced it first hand, giving this to someone I love would be inexcusable. That being said, I will content myself knowing they are out there and they love me. For this year, this will have to be enough.

I have so many years of turkey day memories to lean on should I get lonely. Our family get togethers are always peppered with the usual holiday horror stories like when our cocker spaniel, Ginger, stole the bird right off the bread board while twenty-five of us were seated at the table eating our Thanksgiving dinner. Also, like many of you who have related similar tales of woe, there was the year I cooked the bag of giblets in the turkey. When it was discovered while carving I got very upset insisting I had never put anything in the bird before cooking it. Who knew? In my defense it was my first turkey, and my first large dinner party. My mother, a wonderful cook, was a working mother and there wasn’t much time in her schedule for cooking lessons. When I got married at nineteen I knew how to cook scrambled eggs, toast and cold cereal. Amazingly, we didn’t die of malnutrition that first year. I credit In ‘n Out and Arby’s with providing what food did show up on our plates in those early days. Finally, stepping into our second year together armed with The Joy of Cooking, a Christmas gift from my then father-in-law, I embarked on the quest to learn about recipes and seasoning.

I’m still trying to get the hang of virtual grocery shopping. I ordered a pound of bananas and when the order arrived I found one large banana in the bag. Next time to ensure I got enough of what I needed I ordered three pounds of Brussels sprouts which arrived in what looked like a 33 gallon trash bag. We will be enjoying the petit chou for every meal for the next two weeks. Sigh. There are “personal shoppers” selecting your items. Some are very good I find. They are supposed to always check with you before making a substitution. Sorry gentlemen, but my experience has been the ladies out shop the men every time particularly when it comes to substitutions. One man, when I had requested a pound of ground beef sent me a package of frozen White Castle burgers, where another one substituted frozen broccoli and cauliflower for the meat I had ordered. No matter how hard I try I cannot make a burger out of frozen vegetables. Now I either check “no substitutions” when I place the order or make sure I’m vigilant while the shopper is in the store so I don’t end up with a box of SOS when I asked for graham crackers.

I’m glad Thanksgiving is done now. I did it, we ate, the turkey got cooked, and I am currently over it. Thank you, thank you very much. As usual I did not get through the day without a disaster of sorts. This one really chaps my hide. I didn’t realize I had given my daughter all of my roasting pans. I guess when I moved in here Rick had just passed away and somehow in my grief stricken mind I decided I wouldn’t be celebrating the holidays. Now here I sat with a huge bird and nothing to cook it in. I would happily have gone to the store and picked up a roaster but I am currently quarantined. When I looked into having one delivered I discovered I could have a $3.99 tossable roasting pan delivered for a mere $42.00. Not. I’d make one myself before doing that. So I came up with a genius idea. Yup, I’m full of them. I used my largest glass casserole. The bird actually fit in the pan but the legs stuck over the end. Another light bulb went off in my brain. I would create a tin foil structure under the glass pan to catch any drippings. Also, just in case of excess dripping I laid a piece of tin foil on the bottom of the oven. Now, some of you who know what a novice move this was are shaking your head right about now. You’ve either done this or know better than to do it. At some point the drippings made it to the lower lining of tin foil and when I went to take it off the bottom of the oven and toss it, it wouldn’t come off. Oh-oh. Finally I got the majority of it off leaving about eight small squares still adhering to the metal. Darn. Leaning into the oven I noticed writing towards the front of the bottom. It read, “Do Not Place Aluminum Foil on Bottom of Oven”. Swell. So, I decided to clean the oven in the hopes it would come off. It did not. I went on the Internet, because it has all the answers. I found several sites where other stupid people who had done the same thing had posted suggestions on how to remedy the situation. First thing they all said is do not use the self-clean. Insert expletive here. I am so careful with this house. My grandma always taught me you take better care of other people’s things than you do your own. My landlords bought this new oven the beginning of summer to replace the original one which went south. Sigh. I’m going to chock this disaster up to not feeling well. Sometimes you just have to accept what is and get over yourself. Hasta la vista cleaning deposit. Ach.

My sweet daughter drove my Christmas tree over yesterday and left it in my backyard. I’m sure she took a bath in Lysol after she left here and I wouldn’t blame her. Hosting this bug makes you feel a bit like a leper. I peered at her out the window and waved but sure do miss giving my girl a hug and a kiss but life is what it is at the moment and I have to keep reminding myself nothing lasts forever.

So, today I shall decorate my tree and watch holiday movies. That always puts a smile on my face. Hope your holiday was a good one including lots of good food on your table, and if not in person, virtual get togethers with friends and family.

I’m going to begin and finish my holiday shopping this weekend. Have no good idea what to buy for everyone but I shall persevere.

Talk soon. Stay safe.

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Well, another Halloween, and for me another birthday, have been put to bed. Now the big boys of the holiday clan lie ahead, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Trying to get into my grateful mode, which involves being thankful for what I have, not what I am lacking, I am trying to resist sticking out my boo-boo lip at not spending these beloved holidays with my family. Covid has certainly changed the landscape of our world since it’s arrival on the scene, but in the old “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade” line of thinking, if it is just myself, a dear friend, and Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, seated at the table we will proceed in a festive mood.

Watching the trick or treaters come up to the porch Halloween night to grab some candy out of the bowl I left for them on the chair, really served to accent how much has changed this year. To be honest, I was surprised to see any children at all. It felt a bit lonely peeking out at them through my curtain, but it made me happy to hear them giggle as they grabbed their treats and went on down the road to the next house with a welcoming light on.

November 1st was my birthday. Yup, I have gone and added yet another ring around my trunk. I know I’m beginning to be long in the tooth, but truth is, I still feel, and often act, like a kid. I intend to keep that inner child alive and active until I’ve made it to the end of my last mile here. Aging is one thing, but getting old, well, it’s simply not my style. My grandmother told me once when she was in her ninety-second year, “I am a eighteen year old girl, trapped in a ninety-year old body”. For some reason that always stayed with me. She was to remain with us until she was ninety-six. Her vision, hearing and sense of taste and smell were gone at that point and I believe she’d grown tired of her ever diminishing world and was ready to fall in step with my grandfather who’d left us some thirty years before. Sometimes I look at my mother and wonder how she feels about the whole program. Because she’s lost the ability to communicate her feelings succinctly due to the dementia, I suppose I will be left to wonder. I do my best to keep her safe and happy. Modern medicine has extended our time on earth, but not necessarily increased the quality of the extra time we have here.

I had the most unsettling dream several nights ago. In my dream, company was coming for Christmas. My living room was a sea of half opened boxes with ornaments, wreaths, and all manner of holiday decorations scattered around me on the carpet. There were other people in the room and the plan, as I understood it in my dream, was we were going to put up the tree and decorate the house. As I began to unpack the box next to me containing the tree segments, I realized I could not remember how they went together. As the dream continued, I became more and more confused and unable to comprehend how to do even the simplest of tasks such as using a tape dispenser. Though I’m not an expert on interpreting dreams, my best guess here would be this dream allowed me a window through with which to view my mother’s world since dementia took the wheel. Having a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s is like losing them one small piece at a time. Gradually, the person you once knew fades into the background. In my case, my mother is happy and content and can still engage with me in conversation (not how to split the atom, but simple conversation) and knows who I am and recognizes my children every time I visit. For this I am most blessed.

Sometimes I think this generation doesn’t understand the value of the older members of our population. Having lived for a long time, they generally have so much to share about what they have seen and much to contribute by way of wisdom as to what is going on in our world today. They are like old oak trees. When they are sprouts, trees have spindly, unsteady limbs and sparse foliage. As they grow and flourish, they fill out, providing lush shade for those beneath them and shelter for the birds and animals making their homes there.

My grandmother taught me much about the world. I like to think perhaps my grandchildren have learned a little something from me. As our grandchildren get older and become more independent they seem to need us less, but I don’t believe that to be true. What is true, is that when they are young we are super stars in their life but when they reach young adults we are replaced with devices and peers. That is the natural way of things. However, the bond we develop with them when they are youngsters should endure as they mature and grow into adulthood. I know I was still my Gammy’s “dear Little Susan” until the day she passed away.

I think of family a lot lately. It’s like when you’re on a diet and all you can imagine having is a greasy cheeseburger and a big stack of onion rings. Being without them is a life lesson. When having them back within hugging distance, I have promised myself never to take that privilege for granted again.

Another election is also complete, or at least the votes have been counted and a winner declared. Having so many voters show up to the polls with Covid on the move to cast their ballots, is a indication of how strongly citizens of the United States felt about the outcome of this race. Whichever side your allegiances fell, and whether you are pleased or disappointed with the winning ticket, at least it is over and perhaps we can all find some middle ground with which to begin a civil conversation again. I, for one, would like to see us all begin to work for common goals so we can get out of the current pot of stew we are in. Perhaps that is simply too idealistic of a goal, but at least to be able to open our minds to thinking other than our own might be a step in the right direction?

I had the overwhelming urge today to take my shoes off and run across the grass in my bare feet, so I did. Last night I danced with the cat. One must find their joy where they can.

Thanksgiving will not be traditional this year. Rather than whine about it, I will get a turkey and create all the side dishes. A friend of mine will come and we will have a socially distanced dinner with all the trimmings with a dish on the floor for Miss Boo and Maya, my friend’s dog. I will Zoom with my kids and he will with his. Hopefully, we can catch a game or two but there will be no Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade this year to enjoy over coffee. That being said, I’m going to find the original Miracle on 34th Street and get my fix of parade footage there.

So, change is in the air. Someone told me the other day that they found change very disconcerting. For me, change is simply the natural flow of life. Nothing, and I repeat, nothing, remains the same forever. With each wave that rolls into shore, thousands of bits of shells are rearranged into an entirely different pattern. Leaves fall, people move, children are born, and people die. Each day is a state of flux and we are left to drift along in the current and take each turn in the bend as it presents itself to us.

I leave you with my introspective musings and promise to come back with a lighter story on my next writing. Stay safe. Let’s clear the slate and write something new and upbeat on it to carry us forth.

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