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Archive for the ‘new year’ Category

Since I got up, rain has been steadily falling. I do love rainy days. Growing up in Nova Scotia, scruffy overcast skies were not an unfamiliar sight to me. On blustery days such as today, waves crashed angrily against the craggy shores of the province and gray skies were reflected in the dark churning waters below. There was an element of excitement to watching the clouds move in, I always found exciting. The raw power of nature, in particular the ocean, has drawn me to it as far back as I can remember. When the forces of nature come to bear, we are made small. Outbursts manifest themselves in many forms. Vengeful, wind driven tornadoes, that rip and tear at the landscape. Swirling tubes of destruction tossing buildings to and fro as if they were leaves whisked up an afternoon breeze. Tsunamis formed by tremors beneath the sea creating huge surges of water pushing towards the shore. Waves encroaching on our land masses, hungrily sucking up everything in their way. Violent earthquakes rending gaping crevices in the earth’s face, capable of reducing tall skyscrapers to their knees. Never should you underestimate the sheer strength of Mother Nature when she is dead set on unleashing her havoc.

Having lived all over the U.S. at one time or another I’ve experienced a lot of different climates each different from the rest. While living in Arkansas, for example, tornado warnings popped up regularly on the television screen. Migrating there from California I was surprised to find rain fell during the summer months, a phenomenon rarely experienced living on the west coast. Sunny days in California rarely yielded to even as much as the lightest dusting of rain, unless it was overflow from a gyrating lawn sprinkler. The day I arrived in Arkansas for the first time, it was mid July. My husband at the time, David, and I were moving to Ashdown for a job at a lumber mill expected to last about a year and a half. David was a pipe fitter by trade. We were considered construction bums, if you will. Craftsmen who traveled from job to job, filling a need as it arose. It was hot that day. Hot, hot, hot. The temperature, at least according to the weather girl on the morning news, would be stretching upwards towards 108. Factor in humidity, around 95%, and trust me it felt far hotter.

My first impression of the state was of the prolific and vibrantly green vegetation. Everywhere you looked there was lush foliage. Much of what I was seeing, I was told, was Kudzu. Kudzu had overrun that part of the world at the time, crawling like the slinking vine it was over anything and everything standing in its way. About an hour after crossing the border from Oklahoma into Arkansas, we decided to stop for lunch. Signs posted along the road advertised a diner serving “Down Home Food” coming up in the next town. Following the signs we pulled into the parking lot of a small establishment with a much larger sign announcing “Diner This Way” blinking above an arrow pointing towards the front door. I might have figured out how to get inside without such explicit instructions, but I appreciated the effort taken. If we were hoping for a little cool air once inside, we were to be disappointed. Warm stale air combined with the smell of cooking oil swept over us as we walked through the door. A sweating swamp cooler hummed behind the reception area and three ceiling fans rotated in the center of the room, all seeming to have little effect. To the right as you entered, was a long line of red vinyl stools, customers occupying about half of them. To the left of the counter were booths of varying sizes arranged next to the bank of windows facing the street. A glass tower stood by the reception desk with tiers of partially cut pies resting inside. A fly lazily buzzed around the lemon meringue giving me an excellent reason to pass on dessert. A tall, thin waitress with a folded hanky pinned on the front of her uniform that read “Betty Lynn” showed us to the one remaining unoccupied booth. Handing us two well loved plastic covered menus, I asked for an glass of iced tea, heavy on the ice. Before she went off to greet the next customer she brought us up to speed on the specials of the day recommending the cheeseburgers. Once two cheeseburgers with fries had been ordered, David excused himself to find the men’s room. Looking around, I felt as if we had stepped back twenty years. Felix the cats protruding eyes and tail moved back and forth ticking off the minutes on the back wall. Album covers covered the rest of the wall featuring artists like Hank Williams, Minnie Pearl and Buck Owens. A large window broke up the wall between the albums and the busing station behind which the cooks could be seen moving back and forth across the grill. At each booth, and equally spaced along the counter there were miniature jukeboxes, one tuned to Elvis singing “Love Me Tender”.

Betty Lynn returned to the table to place a tall sweating glass of tea with a wedge of lemon drooped over it’s lip in front of me. Sipping thirstily on the straw, when the liquid hit my taste buds they dispatched an immediate message to my brain SWEET. The tea was so sugary, the texture more resembled syrup. I signaled Betty Lynn and asked if I could have unsweetened tea. She eyed me suspiciously, saying “you’re not from around here are you”? Why no, does it show? Apparently the only iced tea they had was sweet tea, so I opted for ice water and we moved on. B.L. was a little less friendly after that.

David having returned from the restroom seemed to find all this amusing. I had a feeling this was to be only the tip of the iceberg of the experiences I was to have south of the Mason-Dixon line. While we were putting away what turned out to be to Betty Lynn’s credit, “one delicious burger”, the sky outside shifted from bright blue to menacingly black. Several strong claps of thunder shook the building before the sky opened up and released a downpour so intense the plummeting drops actually hit the pavement then ricocheted back on themselves. People in the parking lot covered their heads and ran for cover. Within minutes, the entire parking lot surface was inundated with water so brown it appeared to be milk chocolate. Then, as suddenly as it began, the rain stopped, the sun came out from behind the clouds, and steam began to rise from the puddles. Steam rose from the cars, the roofs of the buildings, I’m telling you, it was a gen-u-ine steam fest. Can you say sauna boys and girls? No one seemed to notice the dramatic shift in climate but me. David said for the locals, this was simply another day in the neighborhood. Oh. “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto”.

Walking back out into the blast furnace outside after paying for our meal, the pungent smell of wet and rotting vegetation lay heavy in the air. Already feeling overheated, I hopped in the car planting my bare legs directly on the sizzling grill that once had served as my car seat. I swear, I smelled bacon cooking. Oink. Assured by David once again I would acclimate to the heat and humidity once I lived there for awhile, I gently peeled my legs off the leather seats and wondered if there would end up being any truth in that statement. This too shall come to be revealed.

I shall continue my weather report in my next post. For now I want to take a harsh swing right and look at the mess our country is in at the moment. What a week! For someone like me who rarely plants in front of the television for hours, I believe I actually have eye strain from switching back and forth between CNN and the other news channels. There are so many applicable adjectives here. Ummmm, unbelievable, unreal, unamerican, unacceptable, but you can’t really include unexpected. People surprise me when they are shocked. The situation has been escalating one bad act at a time. Smoke signals have been rising up from the mother ship for the last four years. I hope everyone involved in this, what was truly an attempted coup of our democracy, gets prosecuted. I won’t say more. And by the way, where were the police? I’m surprised they didn’t escort them in and offer them coffee. We’re all entitled to believe what we choose, which is the foundation on which this democracy was built on to begin with. However, I will finish with saying, “enough is enough”. I don’t care which side you lean towards, this isn’t acceptable ever. This goes way beyond annoying self-serving narcissistic behavior. Let’s do the right thing for the right reasons. The rats are deserting the sinking ship as we watch all this unfold. Allegiances are switching faster than playing cards in a magicians hand. Too late people, we’ve already seen who you are. The following quote couldn’t be more apt for the situation in the United States at the moment.

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”
― Abraham Lincoln

Stay safe. Back to Arkansas in my next post. Again, thanks for stopping by.

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Well here we are at last. We just stepped in it, 2021 I mean. It will be kind of strange not to be referring to 2020 anymore, strange good not strange bad, mind you. This month should prove to be an interesting start to the new year. Once we get to the end of January, hopefully the dust will have finally settled over the election, many more vaccines will have been administered, some of the essential workers can put their feet up and enjoy some time with their families, and life can at least take the first steps toward returning to a sense of normality. Currently Northern California, where I make my home, is the only part of California not at full capacity in their IC rooms. We are in general, less populace than the midsection and southern end of the state, which could be contributing to our numbers being lower. Getting control of the virus will hopefully be the first and main concern of the new administration moving into the White House.

New Year’s Eve passed uneventfully at my house. As usual I didn’t make it to midnight with my eyes open. Well, if you go by EST, I made it. New Year’s Eve has never been a special holiday for me. Over the years there have been many parties and gala events I’ve attended but for some reason I barely made one serviceable memory of New Year’s Eve out of the lot. There was one back in the late 1990’s that was really a bomb. Not literally, mind you, but there was truly nothing redeemable about the evening from beginning to end. My main squeeze at the time loved, loved, loved New Year’s Eve. For him, it was the highlight of his entire year. As the holidays drew close the first year we dated, he suggested booking a New Year’s package at a seaside resort.

The New Year’s package in question included a two night stay at a four star resort in one of their premier rooms with a fireplace, sitting room, private hot tub and panoramic view of the Pacific. On the big night, we would enjoy a lavish seven course meal, complimentary champagne, and dancing following dinner in their grand ballroom. Sounded pretty grand to me. Aware he had spent a great deal of money on the weekend, I didn’t want to disappoint. About a month before the event, I went shopping and indulged myself in a particularly dreamy and well fitting sea blue formal with a touch of bling sprinkled across the front for a hint of magic. The shoes I bought to compliment the gown were also reached beyond my budget, but since the gentleman was paying for the entire weekend above and beyond my attire, I felt them worth the splurge.

At that time, I held down a very demanding job in a high tech company. The hours were intense. Many nights I would be driving home after a long day only to get paged (Yes, paged. This was before everyone and their labradoodle had a cell phone.) to return to work. Some days I had to prop myself up by sticking brooms under both arms to keep myself in a vertical position. Every night dinner was catered in the company’s incredibly well equipped kitchen because most people working their nearly called the place home. The job was demanding in so many ways besides the hours. I was a graphic designer for the firm as well as the only employee there with significant experience creating Power Point presentations including animations, and videos etc. This made me the go-to gal for such projects, and the need for my services came up frequently. The title Power Point Specialist was tagged on to my original title giving me more responsibility for the same paycheck. Sigh.

At any rate, the thought of a few days R&R was mighty appealing that particular New Year’s as I remember. Even though I was relatively young, the long days and little sleep were starting to do their work on my immune system. A few days after Christmas, I got a head cold. It wasn’t one of those colds where your entire face looks like you’ve been bobbing for French fries, but it was definitely slowing me down. After blowing my nose steadily for a day or so, the symptoms migrated to my lungs. Oh-oh. As is typical of my MO, I kept on pushing through the week, and by the time I reached the day before we were to leave I was beginning to feel really miserable. I had the chills and was hot concurrently, and my chest was beginning to feel as it it was being held hostage by a boa constrictor. I asked my boyfriend what the situation would look like for him if I couldn’t go. From the expression on his face I knew the answer wasn’t going to be “not a problem”. Apparently, he would lose his money, as it was too late to cancel, and his New Year’s would be a total disaster. Is that all? Sucking it up, I insisted I was confident I could rally. These words were coming out of my mouth, but my internal systems were all screaming in unison, “Noooooooooo. Run, save yourself”. I should have listened.

He picked me up at my apartment mid-afternoon. I had the day off so took advantage of the time to take turns sleeping, coughing, then sleeping and sneezing for a change of pace. Looking at my face in the bathroom mirror, I knew even that gorgeous sea blue dress wasn’t going to save me. Droopy red eyes, weepy nose, pale cheeks. What’s not to love? Hack. Trying hard to be cheery and good company as we drove up the coast, secretly I was hoping the nausea rising in my throat would remain at that level and not reveal itself on the carpet of his beloved BMW.

The hotel lobby was beautiful, still fully dressed for the holidays. It seemed to me they had switched the thermostat to sauna as riverlets of sweat made their way down my body. The urge to strip down and climb in the fountain which was the focal point of the massive entryway was overwhelming.

After checking in, our bags were loaded on a cart and we were escorted to our room. True to the brochure, the spacious suite had all the promised amenities, the most impressive of them being the glorious ocean view visible beyond the sliding glass doors. All I saw was the large bed calling my name. After a rather alarming coughing fit, my date suggested perhaps I needed to grab a nap so I’d be fresh for the night’s festivities. Ya think?

Waking up some time later, I pulled myself together enough to take a shower and apply some make up to my ashy cheeks. Dressed and ready for a celebration my body wanted more than anything to lie down somewhere until the room stopped spinning. Once downstairs, we followed the signs to a reception area where we signed in, we’re handed festive hats and noisemakers, and pointed towards the bar. I ordered a cocktail. Not. My head began a drum roll Gene Krupa would have been proud of. Ignoring the beautiful cocktail trays circulating among the partygoers, I struggled to convince my legs their function at this affair was to hold up my body.

When the cocktail hour was complete we made our way into the huge dining area. Each table was numbered so we wove through the maze and located the number corresponding with our tickets and sat at the seats with our names in front of them. Check please. Again, with all the people in the room the temperature had risen, along with, it appeared, mine. Whew. The first course was a simple plate of fruit, artisan greens, toasted pecans, and blue cheese drizzled with a delicate balsamic dressing. My stomach was doing the lambata just looking at it. I picked at it to appear interested and smiled when asked a question by my date or others at the table and nodded in agreement or disagreement at the appropriate moments. Ach. Six courses to go. No way. The second course was lobster bisque. Normally, I would have stood up at my seat and danced in place, as I do love a good lobster bisque, but as the rich smell made it’s way from the bowl to my nostrils my body finally took over the reins. Feeling unbelievably nauseous I sprinted across the room barely making it to the ladies room before the first course beat me to it. The groans coming from my stall prompted a guest outside to ask if possibly I was dying or worse.

My date was waiting for me outside the door. Taking one look at me, he guided me to the room where he deposited me in bed. I assured him I would be fine and to save himself and go on without me. Back down he went to enjoy the I’m sure delicious prime rib cooked to perfection followed by the promised Baked Alaska.

Realizing I needed something more than a less than helpful date, I phoned the front desk and asked if the hotel had a doctor on call. Explaining I was quite ill, a concierge doctor showed up within the hour. Pneumonia was his diagnosis. I was given heavy duty antibiotics and strict instructions to remain in bed (a choice I had already made) which I did for the remaining of my five star weekend. What a quiet drive it was back down the gorgeous California coast, a view I mostly missed because I was prone in my seat waiting for the grim reaper to arrive. Thankfully, after several days and the miracle of modern medicine, I began to come up from the fog. A lot is revealed about a partner during a crisis. In this instance, I learned the event and the outlay, for this person, outweighed my well being. Not only did he stay downstairs and get his money’s worth New Year’s Eve, but the following day while I was coughing up a lung, he booked a boat tour. I remember a therapist offering a bit of advice during a session years ago I’ve carried with me ever since. Pay attention not to what people say, because they can say anything. It is what they do that is important. Wow, has that been true. Someone can tell you anything. They could say they are in Mensa or that they beat out Ken Jennings on Jeopardy, but if they don’t know who Abraham Lincoln was, neither is likely true. People always show themselves if you know them long enough, and this was certainly true in this case. New Year’s Eve was pretty much the death knoll for our relationship, and nearly one for me as well.

So, that, among so many other New Year’s Eve sums up my love of the celebration. For me, feet up on the footstool, cat on the couch, popcorn in the bowl, perhaps a little bubbly in the glass and I’m good to go. Hope you enjoyed a safe and healthy New Year’s weekend. 2021 YAY!!!!

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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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Woke up this morning, washed my face and poured my coffee as I do each morning, but it didn’t feel in the least like a typical day in the neighborhood. When I first opened my eyes I wondered for a moment if I’d been dreaming there was no food on the shelves or if it was actually true. Walking past the five six packs of bottled water now stored on my dryer, the reality of the situation once again dropped over me like a lead tarp. The restrictions on our lives only in place for a short period of time it already feels as though I have an ankle monitor snapped around my ankle making the front door seem like an impassable line with danger lying just past it’s borders. Darn.

Yesterday I had to go to the grocery store. I found myself totally unprepared for the long lines and empty shelves waiting for me there. My shopping cart was half full by the time I got in line with the rest of the people buying whatever they could get their hands on. Luckily I got two loaves of wheat bread which should last me quite a while if frozen, because by the time I passed the bread aisle the only loaves available were a couple of raisin and one rye, and people were fighting over tortillas. What, as they say, is our world coming to?

Doing my part I have cancelled all my non-critical appointments and placed myself on a in-house arrest. Not one to let a lot of grass grow under my feet during normal times this is a difficult sentence for me to accept. However, the same principle applies here as I apply to littering. It’s not the one plastic cup a thoughtless guy tosses out the window ending up on the side of the road that destroys the beauty of our roadways and national parks, rather it’s the accumulated cups of many indifferent litterers creating the eyesore. All of us working together will hopefully help to bring an end to this difficult bug.

Life lately reminds me a bit of the only white water rafting experience I have had until now. The river in question was located in Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies. Though early summer, the water was the temperature of ice water requiring rafters to pull on wet suits before heading downstream. There were six occupants in our raft plus the guide. Instructions were given by him as to how to proceed. Each of us held a paddle and were told we would be asked to row at given times during the ride. “Should you fall out”, the guide went on to say, (Fall out? What? Am I falling out?) “point your feet downstream to avoid hitting your head on rocks or objects either above or below the surface”. I can remember being absolutely terrified as we began our descent through the first round of rapids. “Row”, was yelled from somewhere behind me, and though my hands were nearly frozen my survival instincts kicked in and they obeyed the command digging my paddle deep into the roiling water. We drove down over the top of a roll of water. Freezing liquid momentarily washed over me capturing my breath before we resurfaced. “Mama”. At one point at a somewhat slower fork in the river we passed a huge moose standing by the bank watching us as we tumbled along. Probably the massive animal was thinking, “humans, go figure”. I know I was.  In the middle of the chaos I gave in to the ride and allowed the exhilaration of the experience to overtake me allowing me to settle in and feel the excitement. Finally reaching our destination, I wanted to jump out of the raft and go back up and go down again.  Though truly there is no excitement involved in what we are experiencing at the moment, I do feel that once through the rapids if we do what is necessary the water will once again smooth out and calm will be restored.

This whole situation gives you plenty of opportunities to work on conquering fear. For me, I live with a cat. Though a loyal companion she is not much by the way of help in a crisis situation. Secondly I have asthma and this with my age puts me smack dab in the bullseye of the vulnerable group. Keeping a cap on allowing fear to overrun me can be a daily, even moment to moment proposition. Thankfully I have friends and family checking on me regularly to make sure my head is above water and my feet are pointed downstream.

In the end all the worrying in the world will not alter the outcome. Either I will make it to the end of the river or I will not. Truly it is as basic as that. As I have mentioned I do not intend to waste any of the time I have left in my life so I shall believe in what I believe and move on with conviction. What else is there to do?

I have been keeping in touch with people, catching up on things around the house, working on the dreaded pile of paperwork waiting for my attention and generally trying to convince my mind things are going to settle back into a routine here pretty soon and life as we knew it will return to normal, or as normal as mine gets.

The cat, unaware of any shifts in her universe, sleeps peacefully on the pillow next to me totally oblivious to it all. Must be nice. Must admit I am feeling a bit world weary and frayed around the edges. How lovely it would be to be able to simply relax for a little while without something showing up which makes the world seem a little more unsettling. Makes me mindful of how people must feel in war torn countries forced to deal with uncertainty every day of their existence without respite.

Because it is how I cope with things I try to count my blessings during stressful times, thankful for the roof over my head, food in my cupboard, and people populating my life. It’s tempting to want to stack paper goods up to the ceiling and buy peanut butter by the crate, but if we do that there will not be enough for our neighbors, family and friends so I try to buy responsibly.

Last night I did deep breathing exercises before I went to bed. Still my mind conjured up scary images while I slept and woke me up way to early to begin the process of dealing with a different feeling world once again.

One of the things I did learn while pushing through the grieving process after losing Rick was that as dismal as today may seem, a month, six months, a year from now everything will appear much differently. Hope always hangs brightly in the distance like a beacon in the storm.

Hang in there. Read that book gathering dust in the den, pull out that knitting project you never finished in 2010, take an on-line class, teach your kids to cook. Get creative. Talk soon.

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I am approaching the midway point of the second year since Rick, my significant other of twenty years, passed away from lung cancer. Since the second week I have been regularly attending a grief group. Such lovely people they are, each special in their own way.  Though the cast varies as new people are added, and old ones fade into the distance, the message resonates, “you can do this”. Our facilitator, a lovely woman in her early eighties, lays out a roadmap of what to expect as the months unfurl. Those participants involved the longest prop up the newest ones, providing wisdom they acquired on their journeys and hope for a brighter future. The familiar faces have become more family then friends. Together they provide a bridge to help you make your way to your new life. I highly recommend finding a group such as this should you be faced with a loss. It may take a few tries to find one that suits your particular needs but if you take the time it is well worth the trouble.

The first year, for me at least, passed in a blur. The first weeks even months I dealt with the details one has to tie up when a person passes away.  A sort of protective numbness slips over you during this time deflecting or at least blunting some of the deep soul wrenching pain involved with such a loss. The second year, where I find myself now, our facilitator says can sometimes be the “lonely” year.  The numbness now worn off, the spotlight shines brightly on how life is going to look now that your loved one is not in it. Acceptance often arrives during this phase. Accepting that the person you love is gone in the physical sense and you are left to plot out your future on your own. The third year is when you begin to build on the foundation you’ve begun in the first two years. You cannot circumvent the feelings and bypass the grieving process or whatever you have tucked down deep inside will simply resurface at another time and place. Of all information I have been given during this process this is the most valuable. You must work through the pain to get past it.

Today illuminated this for me quite clearly. My doctor ordered a fasting blood test. Hate these. I tend to roam about in the middle of the night with the owls and spirits. Fasting means waking up to no coffee in my cup and no breakfast forthcoming until the lab is open for business. Needless to say I am not always a good sport about this. Uncharacteristically, as I said I tend to move the things I least like to do to the first of the line, I put this off until the last possible day. Looking up the labs available on the Internet I found one in my network open a 7 a.m. That’s for me. Outside the temps hovered just above freezing. My breath proceeded me down the walkway toward my cold car. Cranking the heater up to broil I wrapped my fingers around the icy steering wheel and headed towards town. The sun was up but had not made it’s full presence known yet, so misty shadows hung about mingling with the remnants of yesterdays winter storm. Several clouds parted allowing a few glimpses of daylight to shine through as I drove along the backroads without many other vehicles for company. “Coffee” my mind chanted along with the ZZTop song playing on the radio. “Yes, yes. I’m working on it.” What a nag my mind can be when it doesn’t get it’s creature comforts.

Reaching my destination I pulled my puffer coat tightly around me and scurried into the warm building. Three other brave souls were ahead of me so I picked up a magazine. As usual the date on the front indicated it had been printed when Eisenhower occupied the oval office. No other reading material in sight other than Field and Stream, I opened to the first page to catch up on what Mamie was up to. Shortly a young woman in a lab coat called my name. Pumping a dollop of disinfectant in my palm, I followed her through the door. That magazine looked like it had seen a lot of love since it came to reside in the waiting room, wanted to be sure I didn’t offer any of it’s germy inhabitants a ride. Coming from a doctor’s family this seems to be permanently ingrained in my brain. Perhaps it’s a good thing.

Poked and bandaged I was in and out in ten minutes. Hopping into my car I noticed a chain restaurant across the street Rick and I used to frequent.  Seemed like another lifetime ago, and I guess in truth it was. We owned the restaurant back then, and lived an hour and a half away from where I am now. Breakfast out before the roosters crowed was always a fun if both of us were up early. For a moment I considered going in and getting a table, then thought better of it. My mind was now screaming at me, “Get me some coffee, and I’m not kidding here. I will punish you”. Still, I slowed down at the driveway and then continued on my way. Not today. Not quite ready yet. Gave myself some prompts for going and getting my blood work done and getting as far as I have with my grief work. When I got home I pushed “brew” on my coffee maker and poured some cereal in a bowl. There’s a learning curve to all this and some days are harder than others. The fact that the hardest ones are now behind me helps me to get through the ones that still show up periodically to tell me I’m not through the mine field yet.

To add to the pot I worry about losing my mother. Time with her has dwindled as the dementia continues to deepen making it less safe to take her out of her environment for long periods of time. I grieve this as well and try to wring as many memories as I can out of each visit to hold me when the visits cease to be. You cannot dwell on death, however. As they say, “life is for the living”. Neither can you avoid it or pretend it isn’t there. As we get older time begins to take on more importance because there is less of it left. The need to do or say what we have not feels more urgent then in younger days.

In a state of gratitude is where I try to find myself. I am blessed in so many ways. Gratitude is something I practice every morning before beginning my day.  You don’t have to look hard to find something to be thankful for. If you can see the computer sitting before you, you can begin there, for some people cannot.

Some things we have no control over such as death, but others we do. Beginning our days on an optimistic note or choosing to look for the dark cloud on the horizon has everything to do with how the day unfolds. I read earlier if you expect only good things, only good things will come your way. Being a bit of a realist I will have to work on this one. I did find it a lovely thought though and a great way to jump start my day. So, I expected the 49ers to win and guess what they did!! As usual they offered up a bit of a nail biter at the end of the fourth quarter, but our boys showed up and that’s all that counts. Rick did not want to leave before the 49ers went to the Super Bowl but he had to go so those of us who loved him shall represent in 2020 when they go against Kansas City, How exciting.

I wanted to share this ridiculously simple dip that my dear friend shared with me. I have taken it twice to football parties over the past month only to have it disappear nearly before I set the bowl on the table. It’s easy as to be embarrassing when asked to share the recipe. With minimum effort and maximum crowd appeal I guarantee you will be a star if you serve it. I tripled the recipe for the last party and was looking at the bottom of the bowl before I got the second bag of tortilla chips open.

Avocado Salsa

2 ripe avocados large diced
1 container Rojos Restaurant Style or Homestyle Salsa (Hot to Mild depending on preference-I use mild)Tortilla chips

About one hour prior to serving, dice avocados in bite sized pieces. Gently fold in salsa. Serve with chips.

Serves 4

 

 

 

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Recently I spent the weekend with a dear friend of mine in the San Jose area. Packing the car it seemed there were an excessive amount of bags for a three day trip. Starting to think I’d have to rent a trailer, I called her jokingly suggesting she add a wing to her house before my arrival to accommodate the load. In my defense we share different tastes, so extra items had been added to my list of usual personal carryalongs. My preference in bread is wheat, she prefers sourdough. Thus, a loaf of wheat bread was tucked in a bag along with various snacks like my Salt and Vinegar Pringles, an absolute necessity for any decent road trip. A couple of honey crisp apples were included for an afternoon pick me up as my pal is not a fan of fruit and I can’t leave home without it. Since she drinks only tea, it became clear a coffee maker would be necessary if I was to provide adequate company. Naturally, if I included the coffee maker I’d need coffee, filters, and creamer. My landlords were peeking through their drapes as I went back and forth from the house to the car most likely wondering if I was moving out. Surely I could have gone three days without my early morning cup of Joe, but as we age the patterns we’ve established during our lives become more firmly etched in our personalities and in my case the word coffee is emblazoned across my forehead.

We all have certain indefinable traits stuck to us like a bug to flypaper. If you asked my family to describe me they might choose any number of adjectives (some I can’t use here), but they might also include neat. Piles of papers stacked around, or layers of unaddressed dust make me twitchy. Most likely this trait was passed down from my mother, and will be one I’ll carry though to the end. Mum is neat to the point of obsessive. When in the hospital for her fractured hip, dementia or no dementia, she still sat in the bed and folded everything she could get her hands on from bed pads to extra paper towels and placed them neatly in her drawers. That need for tidiness surpassed all the misfiring pistons in her memory center because it is part of the core of her being.

Over the past year with only Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, and I in residence I have probably begun to establish a sort of loose schedule of my own. At around 5:30 you could lay some safe money on finding me seated on my couch with the cat stretched out beside me, cup of decaf in hand, watching David Muir detail what is happening in the world. I usually put a plate in front of me around 6:00 and begin getting ready for bed around 9:00. Not really set in my ways yet but setting the stage for what could be described as that at some juncture further on down the road.

Several of my single friends, both single for many years, tell me they are so set in their ways they cannot imagine anymore having someone else under their roof. I can not only imagine it, but hope the universe chooses to direct my life towards another relationship when the time is ready.  I enjoy sharing my life with someone and waking up in the morning to a loving face over coffee. I just do, but that is me. Each of us plots our own course (to whatever control we have). It has only been a year and a half since Rick passed. For now, I am definitely not ready to share space with anyone new on anything other than a casual basis.

Companions come in many forms. Some people get roommates, others like myself enjoy a furry friend to hang with, and perhaps some people find contentment looking at a tank filled with fish. I do wish our pets had a longer time on earth, but the plan didn’t include that and I don’t know where to find the suggestion box. Earlier a friend called to tell me his old dog had passed away. Feeling his pain, as I have some experience saying goodbye to beloved animals, I did my best to provide something by way of comfort. Love comes with a price no matter who the love is bestowed upon. Another friend told me recently she didn’t want any more animals because losing them is too painful. I feel differently about this. For me they give us so much of themselves and provide such comfort I think as hard as it is to let them go I will always choose to have them near for whatever time I am allotted. My animals have often been with me well into their senior years. I feel blessed for that. Kitty, the oldest of my many felines, was twenty-one when I had to have her put down. Over the years she traveled all across country with my ex-husband and I. Settling herself in the back window of the car she took turns sleeping or sitting watching as the states passed by beyond the glass. When she needed out she let us know with a distinct meow and we would pull over to allow her to do what she needed to do. I always say a little bit of Kitty has been left behind in nearly every state in the U.S. Truly she was a seasoned and excellent traveler and I will always treasure those crazy road trips with her and my Shih Zsu, Sushi, who said goodbye at seventeen. Lifelong companions, my heart likes to think of the two of them walking along together wherever wonderful animals go and I’m always thankful for them gracing my life for the time they were here.Even though in the physical sense people or animals no longer populate our lives, their “beings” and lingering presence always remain close by. This, at least for me, provides much peace.

While down in the Bay Area I grabbed the opportunity to visit an old friend diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. This was a very personal visit for me because it was Rick’s diagnosis as well, and Ruth, my friend, is a dear and lovely human being. Last I saw her she was a robust healthy lady who avidly pursued a tennis ball every weekend with her tennis club and sang in the community choir. Always Ruth struggled with her weight but I’d been forewarned the disease had reduced her to a much smaller version of herself. In my grief group they stress putting on your game face when visiting someone who is terminally ill. The person you know rests inside the shell but sometimes the disease can redraw your image of them. Certainly in Ruth’s case the bone thin woman who answered the door looked little like the friend I remembered. Sitting with her for several hours I forgot completely about the physical change rather being amazed at her upbeat attitude and the light that shone on her skin and in her beautiful blue eyes. We shared memories and pictures before it was time to go. Hugging her as I was going out the door my body was instantly covered with goosebumps head to toe. Pulling back she felt it too. “Someone is here”, she said softly. The heightened energy sort of hung in the air between us. Perhaps one of our friends already gone ahead had returned to take her hand to guide her to next adventure? Who knows? Certainly not I, but I would like to think it so.

With life coming in and going out I try to be in the present. Embracing this concept is sometimes a struggle for me. Naturally, I believe our minds drift to past mistakes, or wander into the misty unknowns of what is in store for us tomorrow or next week. Since the past will remain unchanged and the future is yet to be written, it would seem the only logical course would be to make the most of the moment you are presently inhabiting.

My thoughts on this gray day in Northern California. Make it a good one.

 

 

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broken-glasses

Read an article this morning warning prescription drug prices are going up again. Really? You mean they haven’t already hit the ceiling? I have basic coverage, gap coverage, and drug coverage which I pay dearly for. With all that you’d think I’d be covered for anything short of a nuclear holocaust. Yet, when I arrive at the prescription counter I get charged if the medication I have been prescribed is not on a tier my plan pays for. When I filled a prescription last year for an asthma inhaler I have been using for some time it had gone up from $47 from my previous refill to $97. When I asked why, the pharmacy assistant shrugged. ?? Que es shrug? What if I didn’t have $97, should I just breathe less? Possibly I could breathe more slowly to conserve oxygen? What do people do who simply cannot pay these prices? Die? This is so wrong to me in a nation of plenty I seriously could break down a cardboard box, write something scathing across it to our lawmakers, crazy glue it to a stick and march in front of the capital building. Why are we as consumers so apathetic? I’m as guilty as the next person. The last topical medication prescribed by my dermatologist came in at a whopping $298.00. Did I say, “no, I will not pay that ridiculous amount”? I did not, because I needed the medication to manage the problem with my skin and there was no generic option available. What the answer to this is I have no clue, but if it is true only 1% of the Americans are holding onto the money in this illustrious country of ours I can’t help but feel many Americans are going to feel the pinch of this increase.

Ahhhh, thank you for letting off steam. Wouldn’t want you to see my face emblazoned across the screen on the five o’clock news. Crazed blonde attacks pharmacist with cardboad sign. Film at eleven. 

5

Over the weekend I took a little time off from everything and turned my car towards the Bay Area. It was only for a few days R&R at a friend’s house but I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to change the scenery for a bit. Her home perches on the precipice of a lower foothill peak offering up a view of the entire San Jose area. During the day you oversee the valley below packed tightly with office buildings and homes then as night falls it transforms into what appears to be an endless blanket of glistening stars. The property is replete with fruit trees heavily populated with morning doves as well as the most prolific population of hummingbirds I have yet to see. A glorious place to unwind and dust off the cobwebs. She shares her digs with two of the cutest little furry creatures, Mali and Phoebe, both Yorkshire terriers who took to me like honey to a muffin. If it wasn’t for the fact that dogs require so much more attention than cats, I would have to own one of my own. For a small breed they were not the least yippy as I might have suspected. Never heard anything out of them beyond a polite “ruff” when it was time for a treat. Phoebe, the elder and larger of the duo, is seven and a rescue. Mali, a breeder pup, weighs in at a little under three pounds, is three years old and holds to the opinion the house belongs to her as well as all the attention. The two of them kept me really entertained while I was visiting.

As usual my trip was not without mishap. I broke down and got new glasses over the holidays.  I have had to have them replaced twice due to defects in the makeup of the delicate frames. According to the optometrist rimless frames such as these are a nightmare for their profession. Sometimes beautiful fragile things are lovely to look at but difficult to possess. Perhaps someone should have mentioned that before I paid for them rather than after, yes? At any rate, I picked up the third pair last week. While adjusting them the optometrist said “three’s a charm”. Not so fast. Sigh. Before I pull the covers over my head I usually read a few chapters out of whatever book I am in the middle of. My room while visiting was her sewing room furnished with a couch hiding an amazingly comfortable bed already folded out and ready for me to hop into.  Apparently I dozed off glasses in place. Somewhere in the night either I took them off placing them on the carpet or they fell off the bed while I was doing what Rick referred to as my breaching while asleep. I woke up before the sun. The room was pitch dark so I fumbled for the light switch which I couldn’t locate. Swinging my legs over the side and planting my feet firmly on the ground I heard an unpleasant crunch. Damn. Having honed stupid accidents to a fine point I managed to annihilate not one but both lenses while wrenching off one arm. The patient, shall we say, was terminal. Thankfully it was on the day I was leaving so at least I had them while I was there. However, there was the problem of driving home without them. Before my cataract surgery that would have been tantamount to handing Mr. Magoo the keys but thanks to the wonders of laser surgery I can see well, not perfectly, but well without my glasses. Sooooooooo back I went yesterday to order the fourth pair. Note to self, “Never Order Rimless Frames Again”. Done and done.

In spite of the vision issues the drive home was glorious. The route I took snaked around the Sacramento Delta taking me across two drawbridges before I merged back on to Interstate 5. Sometimes I find it so soul soothing driving along on a bright sunny day with no agenda in mind other than getting home whenever the car pulls into the driveway.  Seems like I’m often going full to the floor so I took advantage of the quiet time not pressing down too hard on the accelerator.

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The year has begun in a flurry of activity and this month promises to carry that baton to the finish line. Three trips out of town are written on the calendar. My pet sitter will be able to take a trip of her own once I’m done paying her to watch Miss Boo. I always feel guilty leaving my feline best buddy. When Rick was alive I often went on these side trips solo so he was there to man the fort and provide company for her nibs while I was absent. These days Boo and I are batching it and since she is an abysmal traveling companion, pet sitting it must be for the time being.

In keeping with my vision issues I went to the doctor this morning to get my eyes examined. Been having some night vision problems. Coming from a doctor’s family you’d think I’d be better about personal maintenance, but when it comes to me I seem to have a habit of putting things off. It’s not that this type of appointment generally involves any pain of note but I just hate getting my eyes dilated. I am particularly susceptible to the drops they use and end up having eyes with a yellow tinge to the whites and pupils huge and totally black, an effect which can last for hours. Today was no exception. On the way out they hand you a pair of plastic dark lenses to slip behind your glasses because as well as looking like a cat from the underworld your eye or eyes become highly sensitive to light. Stepping out into the morning sun I groped around for my keys in my purse and once seated in my car gauged if I felt I was safe to pilot it.  This assessment was really kind of a moot point because unless I’d brought a lunch and a couple of bottles of water I was going do just that or sit in the car for twelve hours waiting for my pupils to return to normal.

The moment I stepped in the door the phone rang. It was my mother’s caregiver telling me my mom had a respiratory bug and I needed to take her to the doctor. I just drove half blind from close to where she lives so this was not the best news. So 2020 begins with a bang. I shall get my pedaling shoes out and hop on. Let’s see where the path takes me, well, once I can again see where the path takes me.

 

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most_beautiful_sunrise_images

Well now we’ve stepped in it, 2020 I mean. Here we are in a brand spanking new decade with the days laid out in front of us pristine and untouched. Such a heady feeling. Can’t hide my curiosity about what 2020 will bring. Diligently I try to keep my thoughts focused on the journey rather than concentrating on the outcome. Sometimes I have to admit I fight an overwhelming urge to skim to the back of the book and see how the story has unfolded. This is not for us to know, of course, only to speculate. Would I open an envelope if I knew the outcome was concealed inside? Probably not, but I can’t help but wonder how the heroine makes out towards the end of the story.

A new year with new discoveries. What new technological breakthroughs will we enjoy this decade? Someone with a bright and curious mind is sitting somewhere as I write this hatching an idea destined to change the way we do things in the future. There will always be that group of forward thinkers able to conceptualize what isn’t and bring it into what is. Thank God for these creative motivated people or we’d all still be sitting in the dark whacking each other over the head with wooden clubs or, God forbid, be functioning in our offices without Post-it Notes.

Interesting to imagine further down the road what our world will look like at the end of this decade. 2030. Seems inconceivable. Will hovercrafts be floating around overhead, perhaps a manned mars expedition, an alien sighting, androids in the workplace or at home, or phones implanted in our ears at birth? The latter is almost here I feel, as most people I know maintain a deeper and more meaningful relationship with their phones then they share with their spouses or life partners. I have a friend who misplaced his IPhone the other day and nearly broke down in tears when he finally located behind the tissue box in the bathroom. You’d have thought his child had gone missing. This attachment I have to say baffles me, but I am also working on not judging this year so I will table that conversation for another day. It is so much easier to see other people’s flaws I find then to identify my own.

I plan to stray off the path a little this year. Life is too short to maintain the same course for the entire trip. Definitely I have a list of places I want to see. I do wish the powers that be would move my travel paperwork along but they seem to be following that government snail path that any form they issue has to adhere to so I may have to be carried by litter by the time my replacement card arrives.

Our littlest member, Zeppelin, now a year and three months, has discovered that his legs as well as bending in the middle will also support him when erect. This has led to much exploration on his part and added a new wrinkle to his parents and grandparents life. Up until the time they walk little ones are limited by the space they occupy unless transported by another human being. Once they figure out how to make this happen for themselves their world expands to everything they can reach, throw, insert in their mouths, or disassemble. Constantly I am amazed, however, at his sweet disposition and endless curiosity about the world around him. Each day is full of new information for him to process and new things to see. Childhood truly is, or can be, a wondrous experience which little beings are kind enough to share with the adults in their arena so we can revisit it once again ourselves. I shall find it fascinating to watch his progression as the decade moves forward.

Seems hard to believe a year and a half has gone by since Rick passed. Funny how slowly the time seems to move when you are young and yet as you age it seems to disappear in an instant. My mind is still going through the grief brain period when it gets muddled at times and a bit overwhelmed. Add this to the sheer fact that this brain has been processing information for some years now, and I find myself doing some really dumb things of late. Day before yesterday I had to take Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, to the vet. For several days she had been sneezing, a behavior I had never seen from her before.  A vet visit requires precision planning as if the cat sees the carrier before I get her in it she will find a spot under the bed to plant herself and I will spend the next hour or two on my knees trying to coax her out of there.  That morning I retrieved the carrier and left it on the top step outside the back door. I checked to see where the cat was and found her in her usual napping spot on the pillow at the end of the bed. Stealthily I picked up the carrier and entered the door quietly. The only flaw in this plan was that I’d forgotten I’d left a brand new bag of cat litter on the floor by the cat box. Whoops. Tripping over the bag and unable to get my footing I face planted in the middle of the kitchen floor throwing the carrier into the bedroom with a huge crash where Boo made her exit stage right. Game over. Thankfully as God takes care of drunks and fools (I rarely drink but considered it at that moment), I was uninjured.

That same day I was making a meatloaf for guests coming over for dinner. It was one of those days where the clock got away from me and I found myself throwing ingredients in a bowl at the last minute. Naturally, I was short a half a pound of meat so I washed my hands and left the bowl with the dry ingredients on the counter and headed for the store. While at the check out counter I noticed my bracelet with “Fearless” printed across the band was not on my wrist. Not an expensive piece of jewelry certainly but I wear it every day. For me it is significant in my healing process by way of an affirmation reminding me I can handle whatever comes along. I retraced my steps in the store to no avail so stopped to ask the customer service clerk if she could contact me if she found it on my way out. Feeling sad I came home and tossed the remaining meat on top of the other ingredients. Moving my sleeves up my arm I began to knead and squeeze to get everything well blended. Placing the loaf in my loaf pan I noticed something protruding from the top. On closer inspection I saw a silver object with the letters “arle” visible on it. Mystery solved. Could have been worse I could have served the bracelet to my guests cooked in the meatloaf. That would have been a conversation starter. Maybe I could have passed it off like the baby in the cake in New Orleans. How I do these things I have no explanation. If Rick was here he would say, “you need to sloooooooow down”. Probably had a point.

So as we begin this new year my plan is to sloooooooow down, stop and smell the roses, look before I leap, and generally take some long deep breaths and enjoy the moment I am in. Happy New Year to all.

funny planking

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