Archive for the ‘People’ 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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My heart goes out to those overworked healthcare care workers practically begging us not to travel to friends and family over the holidays. Good news, all but 84 million of us paid attention to the warnings. Sigh. We really can’t deny ourselves. Even with the vaccine on it’s way to relieve some of the stress the virus has placed on our country, people will do what people want to do.

Aside from all the Covid saturating the news, the less than peaceful transition of power looms heavy in the headlines. For those of you who have ever ridden a jet ski and fallen off, that’s what the end of this year with our government feels like to me. No rider at the controls and everybody going around in circles. “Jet ski”, you say? A jet ski, is essentially a water motorcycle. Not all, but some, manufacturers have a built in function wherein if the driver falls off while the jet ski is in the water the vehicle will turn to the right and circle so the rider can swim to retrieve it. Just so you know.

Speaking for myself, I’m starting to believe we should do a clean sweep in Washington and start from scratch when it comes to our legislators. Some of these old dogs need to be moved out to allow room for some new blood and fresh ideas to take their place. The government, like my house after my taking a month off to recover from the virus, is in need a serious deep cleaning.

I am steadily regaining my pre-Covid stamina and my brain fog seems to be lifting. Always I have been a being of high energy and having lost that for a while was disconcerting. I seem to find myself in the kitchen a lot these days. After Rick passed, hard to believe it was two and a half years ago, I lost interest in cooking. However, my enthusiasm has been rekindled since finding myself restricted the house for so long during 2020. My size 2 pants gathering dust in my closet, will testify to the fact I haven’t been missing any meals of late.

Too many people out there are struggling this holiday season. I feel immensely grateful to be here celebrating the passing of another year and to have leftovers in my refrigerator from my Christmas dinner, and a roof above my head to keep the rain off.

Over my lifetime like most people, I have experienced times of peaks and times of valleys. At the time they felt more like insurmountable peaks and bottomless crevices than blips in the road. Always though, when it was darkest, the clouds parted allowing shards of sunlight to shine through. This year has definitely been a deep dip on the chart, but I hold on to the knowledge at some point somewhere down the road life will be bright again. Spring with all its glorious rebirth and rejuvenation has always followed a brutally cold winter.

Someone asked me the other day why there has to be so much human suffering. Why anyone might suppose I hold the key to this door I can’t imagine. The answer, or one I’ve heard proposed often, is without suffering how would we recognize bliss? Yin and yang. Balance in all things in nature. I try not to stay too long on that train of thought, because once I hop on board, I find it difficult to see a destination in sight. There are so many unanswered questions in this world. I would hazard a guess after populating this planet for hundreds of years the things we don’t know still vastly outweigh what we do. If you wade too deeply into this pool, you will end up under water. There is no Alex Trabeck standing by the board to reveal the answer once you have posed the question. Sadly, there is no Alex Trabeck in the picture at all, at least in his physical being. I shall miss him.

There are many questions I would ask at the end of this eventful year. For example, why are our highest elected officials (and I emphasize the word elected here- serving at the will if the people) out on the golf course whining about their lot in life while so many citizens across the country are going to bed hungry? I liken it to while watching your house burn to the ground while you draw your 9 iron out of your bag and hit it to the green. Lack of understanding as to why you put in a place of high authority in the first place. Basically, to PROTECT and SERVE, and this does not mean yourself. Nero had nothing on these folks with his fiddling while Rome incinerated. At least he was crazy, although that piece of the puzzle may fit in some instances in this puzzle as well. It does seem a bit like the world has gone mad. I’m just saying.

We managed to pull Christmas out of the hat at our house in spite of the many roadblocks. One after one, all the splinter groups in our family checked in virtually. We shared present opening and some much needed laughs. Though unspoken, I think all of us were missing being able to reach out to one another for a hug or two, but at least we were as to together as the situation safely allowed. I pared down my usual prime rib to filet mignon served with sautéed mushrooms, twice baked potatoes, hercot verts and cheddar and apple pie for dessert. It was delish, if I do say so myself, and apparently I just did. So many families were facing an empty chair at their holiday tables, so I will be thankful again and again all my faces were accounted for.

One thing of note about these trying times I have noticed, has been the kindness and generosity people have extended to one another. Even on a personal level, I have seen this over and over and heard similar stories from friends and loved ones of simple acts of kindness. It is heartwarming. Truly, or sadly depending on your point of view, we humans are at our best when at our worst.

I hope your Christmas was a success. One more week and we can put 2020 officially to bed, yay. That, is definitely a reason to break out the fireworks!!

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Hindsight being 20/20, I am fervently wishing I had taken better care of my first Barbie this morning. Apparently, some of the original versions of the doll are selling in the half million dollar range. Drat the luck. Mine, I would hazard a guess (or bio-hazard as the case may be), is resting at the bottom of a garbage dump somewhere in Southern California most probably enjoying a very bad hair day.

Even now, I can remember the excitement when my mother took me to the toy store to purchase my first Barbie doll. They had just burst on the market. Every little girl worth her starch wanted to own one of her own. Mother let me pick her out. She had blond hair, impossible proportions, and was wearing a one piece bathing suit. Several outfits were added to the purchase, so she had a choice of attire beyond swim wear. Toy stores were magical places for kids in those days. Shelf after shelf, stocked to the edges with colorful boxes directly off Santa’s wish lists. There were baby dolls with bonnets peeking at you with pursed lips out of plastic windows, followed by Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs in cardboard cylinders. For boys, dump trucks and racing cars, and for the little ladies, Easy Bake Ovens accessorized with miniature kitchens. Aisles lined with bikes and trikes, next to those filled with skates, sleds and metal toboggans for the snow. With Toys R Us closing their doors in 2018, toy stores such as I knew them when I was a child, became virtually obsolete. Makes me sad. Kids today kind of miss out on the joyful outlets we had available to my generation when we were small.

The marketplace at the time was populated with a lot of small, specialized businesses rather than behemoth enterprises like you see today such as Costco,Walmart, or Amazon. If I wanted to buy a paint by numbers, I went to the hobby shop. For new phones, I shopped at the phone mart. And, if I had a craving for ice cream? Yup, I went straight to the ice cream store. A much more personal approach then is in place these days, or at least I found it to be so. There was even a general store around the corner where I could take my allowance and buy penny candy out of jars. When I walked in the door they called me by name and as I left asked to be remembered to my mother when I got home.

Signs in front of buildings advertised personalized services such as alterations, typewriter repair, jewelry repair, and all manner of small individualized shops where men and women worked who had been plying their craft for years, often as they parents had before them. The other day I needed a pair of boots resoled. I literally could not find a shoe repair within a reasonable driving distance, or even within an unreasonable one. This reminded me of the last time I had taken a pair of Rick’s shoes in to have a heel put on. The owner of the shop mentioned in passing he was retiring. While writing down my contact information, he went on to explain many “artisans” like himself, were being phased out. Writing this, I can still imagine the smells and sights inside that little store. There were shoe frames, tools and vices lined up along his unbelievably cluttered work counter. Behind the counter, along the back wall, stood a bank of wooden cubbyholes, each available space filled with pairs of shoes either already repaired or still waiting to be done. I rather enjoyed the ripe smells of shoe polish mingled with the aroma of machine oil. I guess, as he said, true old school kind of artisans like that himself have become passe with the advent of the technology age.

In middle school, if my bicycle was in need of a new chain, or I wanted to pick up a shiny new lock, I headed into town to visit the bike shop. The owner of the shop, Mr. Michaels, was also the youth group leader at our church on Sundays. Always, he was there greeting customers with a broad smile on his face. I wondered at times if the man slept in the back room. Next door, was the appliance shop where I went with my mother when she needed a new toaster or to find a replacement for an old coffee perculator. These small businesses disappeared so breathlessly, I guess it took me a while to notice they were gone.

Often on a weekend, my mom and I would gather her filled S&H Green Stamp books and take them to the stamp redemption store. S&H Green Stamps were given out in sheets to customers by local merchants. The number of stamps you were given were directly in proportion to the amount of your purchase. The stamps were pasted into books, usually my job. When enough books were filled, they could be redeemed for items chosen from the S&H catalog.

The main drag in Covina, California, my stomping grounds from the beginning of middle school until I graduated from high school, was lined with small mom and pop establishments such as described above. My friends and I would ride our bikes downtown on lazy summer afternoons. On Saturdays, the first stop would usually be the old movie theater. After filling our pockets with Junior Mints and Jujube’s we’d find seats in the balcony. Two movies and cartoons were yours for the price of admission. Afterwards, we would head across the street to the malt shop for a vanilla shake or a cherry coke, or head down the street to Orange Julius for something citrusy to whet our whistles.

There were also two garages or filling stations in the downtown area. My stepfather, a teacher, worked at one of them while on hiatus during the summer months. He and my mother always existed slightly above their means. Mum was born with the shopping gene which she passed on to me. Teachers had the option to take all their pay (such as it was) during the school year, or spread it out equally throughout the twelve months. Always a little short, he took the full amount while school was in session. This left him scrambling to find employment to keep things moving along seamlessly when school was on summer break. Though he and only I tolerated one another on the best of days, I have to say he was a neat man, always taking pride in his appearance. It must have taken it’s toll when he was working at the garage to perpetually have grease under his well manicured fingernails. After work, I would find him at the kitchen sink scrubbing furiously with a nail brush to try to get the black off. While at work, he was required to wear a crisply pressed brown uniform with “Dennis” written across the pocket, and a ball cap with the name of the oil company covered his bald pate. When a car pulled up to the pumps, Dennis came out with a spray bottle and washed their windows. While the tank was being filled, he also checked the oil, water, and tires. Seems funny to think of that now. Most times, unless you need a cup of coffee or a snack, or your card doesn’t work at the self-serve kiosk, you never see employees in a gas station at all.

Bakeries are another small business you see less and less of. In high school I took an after school job at one of the local bakeries. The bustling shop was run by an Italian couple, and staffed by their four children (three boys and a girl), myself, and two other part-time employees, also female. The patriarch, a reedy man in his late fifties never seen without a Camel cigarette dangling from his lower lip was, aside from being a gifted baker, a bit of a letch. The Mrs., a generously cut woman, enjoyed eating her baked goods as much as she did baking them. She ran the business and her wandering eye husband with an iron fist. Hair tightly secured with an unflattering hair net, she could be seen mixing the delicate cream for the eclairs with one hand while slipping a finished one into her mouth with the other. Her outstanding features were three long hairs, which though she plucked on occasion, always seem to reappear in the creases of her fleshy chin. To add insult to injury, her parents had named her Mabel, not leaving her much to live up to.

The children were both totally undisciplined and rude, not the most charming combination. When their parents were absent from the shop, they would run totally amok. Several times I saw one of them swat flies found in the display cases with a dirty fly swatter, killing them directly on the pastries where they had landed. Removing the carcasses, they would leave the items where the carnage occurred in the case to be sold to unwitting future customers. If I ever caught them doing this, I disposed of the tainted pastries, and made it a rule never eat out of the cases even though we were allowed to as a perk of the job. I lasted nearly six months on that job before a pinch on my behind became one pinch too many and I left my first paying job to work at the bowling alley scoring games for the weekend leagues.

Seems like a simpler easier time as I write about it. Maybe my memory has fogged the glass, I don’t know. These days it feels like a lot of stress and rush, rush, rush has seeped through the cracks. I hope today finds you relaxed, done with your holiday shopping, your feet up on the coffee table enjoying a warm cup of Christmas cheer.

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Christmas is only a week away, according to the last window I opened on my advent calendar. I’ve gotten an advent calendar every year for as long as I can remember. They are sort of a tradition in our family. There’s something special about opening each festive window as the first 24 days of December are checked off, to retrieve the chocolate treat hiding behind it. We had many traditions at our house growing up, as I imagine would be true for most families. Each Christmas Eve, after the dinner dishes were put away, my grandmother would hand me a plate of brightly decorated holiday cookies and a glass of milk to place by the fireplace for Santa. After the snack was in place, I was allowed to open one present under the tree, usually pajamas or a robe, and then ushered up to bed to wait for Santa’s arrival.

Growing up Christmas always centered around my grandmothers kitchen. She had an extraordinary “white” thumb when it came to baking. This trait, sadly, she was not passed along to me. As a child the holidays were a glistening sugary world, filled with gooey chocolates, sticky nutty filled bars, plum pudding with hard sauce, and my aunt’s unforgettable green and red shortbread cookies, small mouthfulls of heaven on earth. Many times I have tried to recreate the buttery rich flavor of her delicious recipe, but not once as of yet have I brought the team home.

Every year, just like my grandmother, I bake for the holidays. To be honest, I have been a little hesitant about using my high powered electric mixer with my Covid brain still acting up, but decided today was my last opportunity. Last night I went to bed around 8:30. Yesterday had been a long busy day, and my eyelids refused to remain open to allow me to finish the last few chapters of my current read. Totally spent, I dropped off immediately, without my usual internal dueling between my conscious to my subconscious about giving up control of the ship. Waking up some time later, I looked at the clock on my nightstand, 4:30. Eight hours, yay. I’m usually lucky to achieve six hours of sleep a night. Straddling the bed, I pushed my feet in my slippers and went into the kitchen to switch on the coffee. The cat at my heels, I retrieved her treat bag from the cupboard and deposited two small morsels on her mat as is our usual before breakfast routine. For having a full night’s sleep, I felt a bit loggy. A cup of caffeine would remedy that situation, I thought to myself. After I’d done my morning bathroom routine and poured and consumed my first cup of coffee, I decided to turn on the news. Switching to my regular morning news program I found instead commercial programming. The overly chirpy spokeswoman was showing volunteers how the product she was touting eliminates wrinkles. Huh? Not that I couldn’t have gotten value out of the content provided, there are mirrors at my house, but where was my news? Looking at the time on the TV it suddenly hit me the time noted on the screen was 10:10. Oh boy. Maybe I should have put on my glasses before looking at my alarm clock. So, restating for those of you still as confused as myself, up until that juncture I had completed one hour of sleep, a lifetime record. To add to the picture, I had infused caffeine into my system leaving me wide eyed and bushy tailed, ready for my day which didn’t start for, mmmmm, seven hours. Really?

My brain, of late, seems to be suffering a motherboard problem. My circuits are not communicating correctly with one another. I’m not sure who to call. I don’t believe the Geek Squad handles such malfunctions in humans. If I didn’t want to risk traumatic brain injury I would shake my head violently from side to side to see if I could initiate a reset.

Today was sort of a continuation of last night. I decided to make snowball cookies. Most of you have either cooked or eaten these little powdered sugary bites. A fairly simple recipe I have made a hundred times. I hardly to have to think about getting them in the oven anymore. This time however, the dough seemed dry. I rolled them into balls in the palms of my hands and put them in the oven for the allotted time. Taking them out they looked right but several had slight cracks which the batches I’d made in the past never had. Once they are removed from the oven they are rolled in powdered sugar when warm and then dusted once again with another blast of the same. Hence, the name snowballs. This, I just realized, is like explaining to you why you might name a black cat midnight. Sorry. So, I picked one of the little cooked balls off the cookie sheet and it immediately burst into a pile of flaky dust. That didn’t seem quite right. Putting an intact piece in my mouth, I spit it out in the sink. Blah. What on earth? Then I realized instead of adding sugar in the recipe as instructed, I had put in flour twice. Sigh. Never mind. I’d go back to bed but we already know how that went.

As I’ve said previously I’m working hard on my grateful mental state every day. Today I’m working double time. I know this too will pass and all will be right in the world again, but today my brain burp is a bit annoying. I think it is contagious, or perhaps the pandemic and being confined is beginning to cause people to be a little off center. My son called yesterday to ask if I’d received his Christmas package. I replied I had not. This seemed to upset him so he said he was going to do some back tracking and see where it had disappeared to. Shortly, he called back now really upset. Apparently, my old address was still listed on the site he had shipped from and it had deferred to that. The gift had been shipped and delivered two weeks ago. Whoops. I suggested I call a friend who lives around the corner from my old house. Perhaps she could stop by and ask if something had been delivered for me. Immediately after hanging up I called and left a message asking her to run over if she could, but didn’t hear back. Meanwhile my son, concerned I wouldn’t have anything from him under the tree, repurchased his gifts and had them drop shipped at some expense to my new address. Making this game more fun, my friend, without texting me first, was kind enough to retrieve the packages from the new homeowners who had kept them for me. Now I have double presents. Okay. Is there a full moon or something? Are the planets misaligned? Is this the dawning of the Age of Aquarius? I am going in the closet with my double flour cookies and not coming out until spring. Don’t look for me.

Have a happy pre Christmas week. Hope yours is less eventful. Stay safe.

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For the most part the symptoms of my recent Covid infection have either abated or in most cases, disappeared completely. Each group seemed to have arrived and departed in waves. Just when I thought I was completely out of the woods, Covid brain arrived on the scene. This is a fun one. I first noticed it while trying to decipher a fairly simple email detailing instructions on how to proceed on a project I was working on. I read and reread the information. In spite of willing my brain to absorb what was written, the data kept seeping out of my left ear and disappearing into the atmospheric continuum. Finally, I had to call the client and have a phone conversation to get it to sink in. Duh and double duh. Not that I can’t be dense times, I most certainly can. However, these were not instructions on how to build a nuclear device, it was how to lay out a flyer, something I’ve done a hundred times before.

I began to notice myself having more than usual blonde moments over the next few days. I made the coffee as I do every night before retiring, but neglected to put the pot under the machine after filling it with water. This would have been less concerning had I not come out half awake the following morning and pushed brew without noticing my omission. Whoops.

Yesterday I took stupid to new heights while trying to take Boo, the queen of cats, to the vet. I have been in my new house over two years. Time to find a new vet, and past time to update vaccinations and to get her a general well check. Vet visits, I have to say, are not something Boo is a fan of. This lack of enthusiasm often spreads over to me. The vet I made an appointment with was recommended by a friend. Though not having been to the office before, I had a general idea of the location. The woman on the phone explained due to Covid, owners no longer accompany their animals inside. Instead they pull into a numbered parking space and call the number provided them when they arrive and animals are retrieved by hospital employees . Works for me. So, I pulled into the parking lot a few minutes early, and didn’t see any numbers by the parking spot I was in, or any parking spot. Odd. I dialed what I believed to be the correct number off my recent call list. The person on the other end answered “hospital”, to which I responded, “Hi, I have my kitty waiting to be picked up but I didn’t find any number by the parking space.” Silence, followed by a little more silence. Finally, I broke the stalemate and said, “Hello”? I believe the operator wanted to ask at that point if I was on drugs or needed to be directed to the psychiatric ward, but instead responded “ma’am this is a hospital”. I was thinking to myself, “Your point would be?”, when she said, “We don’t see kitties here. “ Oh, like a real hospital, for humans. A light went on in an otherwise dark corner of my brain. I had called them yesterday about another Covid test and their number was one below the vets. Whoops. My bad. Looking at my recent call log I located the right number and called it. This time a friendly voice answered, “animal hospital”. Bingo. Once again I explained I had my cat in the car, but didn’t see any numbered spaces. The young woman said she’d be right out. After several minutes, still no one emerged from the building. My phone rang. Apparently the vet assistant was standing outside her building and unless she was transparent or Boo and I were, something was amiss. Drat the luck. I asked her to repeat the address please. Sigh. This was indeed a veterinary hospital just not the one where I had an appointment. Apologizing to the world in general for my dingyness, I pulled out and went in search of the right address. Thankfully, I pulled into a parking lot full of numbered parking spots. Whoopee. Boo was retrieved. The vet called shortly with good news, she’s healthy as a horse (a little vet humor) even bordering on being a little chubby (aren’t we all these days).

The vet, a lovely woman, who took the time to speak to me on the phone said Boo was sweet and wonderful. My Boo? Are you sure you’re looking the right carrier? White cat, calico markings, evil grin? Truthfully, I have to say she is picture perfect when in the vet’s office. I swear, if asked to open her mouth and say “aah’ she would. They give her a pill and she swallows it politely. They send me home with the same cat and the same pill and a little pill gun to shoot it towards the back of her mouth, and it takes three men and a roll of duct tape to get it into her stomach. Amazing. When she had surgery on her ear they put one of those collars around her neck to keep her from bothering the incision. Right. My “sweet” pussy cat took her head and banged it as hard as she could on any hard surface available until it was completely unusable. When I took the tattered remains of the collar back to the vet and asked what I should do, they looked at me as if I was somehow incapable of managing my animal. Really? By the time we hit the third collar they were looking far less skeptical.

This vet today told me Boo was in perfect health but would need her teeth cleaned. This information made my teeth clench. Her teeth were cleaned seven years ago and it is expensive. This will be my Christmas present to myself for the next seven years at $100 each year. I should have purchased that vet insurance when I was thinking about it. The vet asked if I brushed her teeth. Uh, no. She went on to say they don’t expect their cat owners to do this, because if bitten they could get an infection and the fact that the animal is dead set against it ends up being traumatic for the animal. It takes me an hour and stealthlike precision to detail to get Boo into her crate, the likelihood of her sitting still while I’m prying her mouth open and brushing between her teeth ranges right in between 0 and sub 0. I’m just saying. I can’t even find a groomer willing to bathe felines due to their aversion to, well, just about everything they don’t want to do. When the drawing for felines was still in the designer phase back in the beginning, they must have added the feature of cats cleaning themselves knowing this would be a problem down the road.

So, we are back home. Boo is stuffing those little chubby cheeks with her treat for acquiescing to being cared for. Bless her furry little snout.

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I have spent the last week watching the balance on my credit card go up as I frantically searched for items for those on my Christmas list. Each year I tell myself I’m going to stop doing this and simply put up my tree, pour a glass of eggnog, and send everybody a card with a small enclosure. This year in particular between recovering from Covid, being unable to go into stores to shop, and the general mess our world is in this would have been a completely understandable approach to take to the season. But did I do this? Nooooo. Instead I made myself crazy trying to think of just the right gift, ordered it on line, and prayed it would either get here or to whoever I sent it to in time for Santa’s big day. Why? Because I love to do it. Perhaps I was an elf in a former life? Wrapping presents with A Miracle on 34th Street playing on the TV is one of my favorite ways to wile away a winter afternoon. A steaming cup of cocoa with the lights glimmering on the tree makes everything feel safe and oh so festive.

I haven’t felt too safe of late. Maybe that’s why I rescued the holidays this year. It’s like, let’s salvage something out of 2020, lest we just have to discard the entire year as a bust and move on. Yesterday, I took my first trip outside of the house since I got a positive result on my virus test the first of November. Oddly, or perhaps not, I found it a little unsettling. For those of you who aren’t working or haven’t been regularly going out to run errands etc., you might well understand this feeling. Suddenly it felt like our world has taken on a bit of a sinister tinge with everything I touched or everyone I came in contact with a possible donor for “the bug”. Most likely, having had it, I have developed a temporary immunity. This would be the side blessing to the miserable symptoms the virus brings along in it’s bag of tricks. According to three different medical professionals I have talked to since receiving yet a second positive test two weeks ago, I am no longer contagious. That being said, my vet, my allergist, and several others have opted out of enjoying the pleasure of my company at several recent appointments after being informed of these results. Hmmmm. To be sure I wore a mask, donned a suit of armor, immersed myself in a vat of Lysol and went in and out of a UPS store without standing near to or touching anything with the inclusion of using my own pen to fill out the requested forms.

While standing on one of the now familiar social distancing spots instructing patrons to “Stand Here” in UPS, a lady bustled through the door with a 33 gallon trash bag full of boxes. Without so much as a glance to the line of people waiting their turn, she marched up to the counter and dumped everything out in front of the clerk waiting on the customer before me. The clerk, a really wearied looking woman who most probably was telling herself she wasn’t getting paid nearly enough to do what she was doing, starting checking in this ladies packages. People behind me started to murmur among themselves. Oblivious apparently, this woman continued to fill out paperwork for the at least fifteen boxes she took out what seemed like a bottomless bag of goodies. Really? I was digging deep to locate my holiday spirit and trying so hard to be a pleasant human being. Life is so stressful lately, was it really worth it to add to the ugliness already floating around in the air? Possibly. I asked the clerk politely, “Do you take appointments?”. The clerk looked at me as though she could happily shove all this ladies boxes on the ground, grab her coat, and head home for a glass, or possibly an entire bottle, of wine, but said, “no, why”? I said I just wondered because the woman she was waiting on just walked in front of everyone else who had been waiting patiently in line as though she had scheduled a time to be waited on. It got very quiet. The lady with the packages shot me a look that did not convey “happy holidays”. Sorry. Sometimes you have to speak up for what is right. After the brief silence, the customers behind me clapped. You’re welcome.

Being quiet in the face of injustice, somehow to my mind makes you complicit. Whether you speaking up creates change in the outcome, in a way becomes irrelevant. More, it is the willingness to stand up for what you believe in and speak your peace in spite of loud objections from those of a different opinion. Over the past few weeks I have watched our country sink into the quicksand and it makes my heart sad. Where are the idealists these days, or have people just sold out to fill their pocketbooks or stoke their egos? Someone on Facebook commented the other day masks were for sheep, and wearing a mask compromises your immune system. There is so much garbage floating around on the information highway, it is hard to know what direction to follow. It is unbelievable to me these small face coverings, a minor inconvenience at best, have created such a furor in our citizens. As I’ve said before, if I thought it would save one person from being sick, or worse yet dying, I would wear a mask every day.

A vaccine, or several viable possibles, are on the way. This poses a new dilemma. Will people take the vaccine? In order to stop this virus from continuing to demonize our lives, I heard something like 80% of the population need to surrender their arms and get the shot. I told someone the other day I would be first in line and was surprised when she responded “I can’t believe you’re going to take that Kool Aid. Why would you”? I struggle to understand this thinking, while at the same time trying to wrap myself around the ideology I am not always right. What? I know. To me it is like having a flat tire in a remote area. You have a jack in the trunk but have never used one. Though not really familiar with the workings of the jack, you could take a chance on using it and putting on the spare and getting out of there, or you could sit there until a bear comes along and makes you his afternoon snack. Perhaps not the best analogy, but you get the idea…..hopefully. If obtuse was a lifestyle, I would be living the life.

My asthma is a condition that makes it even less desirable to invite Covid-19 into my body. I never had asthma until fifteen years ago, going through most of my adult life without it. Twice I have been hospitalized for it, but thankfully these days it is pretty well controlled with daily steroid regimens and occasional Nebulizer treatments. There are many people out there are dealing with so much more, so I shall never complain about having to handle this.

To add to the mix, people are about to run out of government funded programs to help see them through this epidemic. Congress, is perched on the precipice of going home for the holidays with no stimulus bill in sight. How does that work? Basically, legislators work for the people last I heard. So, you just break for a week or three and leave everybody without food on the table or any relief from possible eviction? Well, they have food, and health care, and a roof over their heads. That’s like owning a business such as a restaurant. You have placed a massive food order for the expected holiday diners and your entire wait and kitchen staff takes off their aprons and heads home leaving you to fend for yourself. Unbelievable that they could not reach a compromise on some kind of help before shutting off the lights and going home. Perhaps they still will. I will choose the high road and leave the light on for them.

So, that is my rant for today. Hope this finds you well and looking forward to the holidays. Talk soon.

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I have a dear friend who’s old dog is reaching the end of her story. This gentlemen lost his wife three years ago. A lot of of the love he had no place for after his wife died, he has poured into this sweet little dog. Like many old animals, Maya has slowed down considerably. Where she used to run joyfully after her ball, she now sits and looks longingly after it if you toss it, but doesn’t make any effort to get up and bring it back to you. Still, she loves to be in the yard. I watch her from my window when she’s visiting. There’s something so joyful in the way she raises that old snout and breathes deeply the fresh air. Sitting quietly, her head turns from one side to the other as she surveys her “land” and she seems to take pleasure in simply being outside shrouded in nature. When we are entrusted with an animal’s well being, it is up to us to make the to relieve them from pain should it become necessary, because they can’t do it for themselves. So many times I have been asked to make the choice to have to say goodbye to an old furry friend. It never gets any easier. Fortunately Maya has no pain according to the vet so she will live out her life well loved and cared for until it is time for her to go. To my mind, pets are members of the family. I have said many times Boo, the Queen of Cats, can be credited with getting me through the past two and a half years. Had I had to face Rick’s death and this isolation without her companionship it would have proved far more difficult. There isn’t a day I don’t look at that much loved furry face and feel overwhelming thanks for her presence in my life.

Loss is part of life. This year has brought more than the usual share of loss for so many people it seems. I remember thinking last year I could not wait for 2020. 2019 was a year marked by a lot of hard edges. I can hear my grandmother’s voice in my ear, “Susan, never wish your life away”, but 2019 asked a lot. Who knew 2020 was going to show up and prove to be a far more tumultuous and difficult year? Makes 2019 look like a walk in the park.

I am thankful I made it through with the virus and didn’t end up in the hospital. Finally, Even more thankful that after entering my third week of confinement I am beginning to feel like my old self. Not fully mended yet but beginning to sense it is around the next bend in the road. The virus is still lingering in my body according to a recent second test, also positive. Apparently this is not uncommon. I have been given the green light to actually return to the general population the middle of next week provided all my symptoms have abated. This news comes just in time for California to begin a sort of state-wide lock down to get a handle on the over populated hospital wards due to Covid spread. So, I can go out, but, I can’t go out. Rather than hop in the pity pot and stew for a while, I am going to wrap myself around the glorious feeling of finding my energy once again and my regained sense of taste and smell and do something to keep myself busy in my little house with Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats. This too will pass, will be my mantra, and I have promised myself if I feel despair knocking at my door, I will not answer.

In an effort to keep the blues at bay, I have dusted off my sewing machine and begun to work on some projects. I love to sew, it’s cathartic for me. Actually enjoying working with fabrics really didn’t start for me until my early thirties. Up until then, I had not had much success with sewing. The first time I used a sewing machine was in Home Economics in eighth grade. Home Economics, for those of you scratching your heads, was a required subject in middle school back in the stone age. Young women of that time were being groomed to become wives and mothers, not CEO’s of large high-tech companies. Household skills were deemed necessary to sink the hook in your mate of choice. Thankfully, I didn’t lean totally on this Cinderella concept. I enrolled in a typing class before I graduated from high school. This, it would turn out, would be a decision that would save my bacon when finding myself a single mother with two small children a few years down the road. Home Ec, as we called it, was not my favorite class. I did not endear myself to my classmates when in the first semester tasked with making cinnamon toast (not exactly rocket science) I accidentally grabbed the jar containing salt not sugar. This would have been chocked up to a stupid mistake but for the fact in order to get a grade we had to eat what we produced. Needless to say this did not sit well for the other young ladies in my group. Sorry.

From cooking we moved on to sewing. My mother, God love her, couldn’t sew on a button if the fate of the world hung on her doing so correctly. Mum was a bit of a debutante growing up, and had people to do such things. Up until a scant few years ago if she lost a button or dropped part of a hem the item was put in a pile with a note reading “Save for Susie” pinned to it to await my next visit. So, going into sewing class I knew absolutely not one thing about how a sewing machine worked or any clue whatsoever about choosing fabrics or reading a pattern. My best friend who next to me in class was usually my partner in crime. If possible, she knew even less about how to thread a needle. Between the two of us, we were sort of the precursors to Dumb and Dumber, ladies edition. Similar to having to eat what we cooked, we were giving the assignment of making a garment then wearing it to school to earn our grade. Isn’t life humiliating enough at thirteen, without being charged with having to do something like that? I think so, I really do.

The next weekend, my mother took my friend and I to the fabric store to pick out patterns and fabric for our assignment. Now, this would be tantamount to sending a chimp to the NASA command center to manage a rocket launch. I decided to make a skirt. I’m sure this decision was predicated on the fact a skirt was equal to half a dress so would be less work and had a relatively low degree of difficulty. A skirt would consist of a waistband, a zipper and the skirt itself. Easy peasy. Right. I got the pattern home, opened it up, and laid the pieces out on the floor. Had the instructions been written in Ancient Sanskrit they couldn’t have been more confusing. Words like “selvage”, “understitch” and “bias” jumped off the page with no explanation offered. Diligently, I pinned the pattern pieces to the fabric, cut them out, and took the lot back to school the day my next class was scheduled. Having no idea there were different types of fabrics, one better suited than another, I chose a stretchy material. True to it’s description, it twisted and stretched in every direction like an avid marathon runner before a big race. By the time I got done sewing the skirt, put in the zipper, and attached the waistband, it looked like I had sewn tennis balls underneath it. Puckers and pouches abounded. Sigh. My mother, always my biggest fan, said it looked as if I’d bought it off the rack. Go, Mom. It’s like the old Egyptian saying, “in his mother’s eye, the monkey is a gazelle”. Knowing I had to wear it to school, I seriously considered sewing a matching bag to pull over my head. I showed up at school the day we were to show our final product, skirt on, and head down. About mid-morning, with my Home Ec class not scheduled until after lunch, I had already endured enough humiliation to fill the humble pie of my young life to the brim. Just before lunch, the unevenly placed stitching on the waistband gave way and my skirt, waving the white flag of defeat, dropped to my knees. Life, as they say, was in the toilet during that moment. So memorable was it for my friends, I was still taking some good natured kidding in high school about that incident several years later. Fortunately, I had worn a slip, the only thing rescuing me from total social suicide. Still, I had to go to the Home Ec class and be sewn into my skirt so I could finish the day. That being said, the resulting grade did not do much to enhance my GPA.

After that debacle, I retired my foot pedal until I was given a sewing machine in my twenties by a friend who had purchased a new one. I didn’t have the heart to tell her no, so excited was she to be sharing something she so enjoyed with me. Yawn. For the first year, the machine sat lonely and abandoned on the closet shelf in my spare room. Around the holidays, my daughter, a third grader at the time, came home to excitedly tell me she was going to be a Cossack in a Christmas pageant at her school. Yay!! A newletter sent home to the parents of participants in the pageant mentioned parents were expected to either sew or have sewn the costumes their offspring were to be wearing. Swell. I felt I leaned more toward the “have sewn” group, but since money wasn’t exactly sprouting out of a tree in the back yard, I decided I’d better attempt to create something myself. Once again, I immersed myself in the strange and wonderful world of patterns, but this time I showed up to the battle armed with The Simplicity Learn to Sew Book. Truthfully, looking back most of the things I’ve learned to do well in my life have either came from trial and error by actually doing whatever it is I set out to do, or getting a book and going about teaching myself. I am probably one of the more tenacious humans on earth, so like a dog with a bone I will keep gnawing at it until I get to the marrow.

After much swearing and a number of failed attempts, one resulting in a shredded Cossack vest resting in a shallow grave in the art room trash can, I finally managed to make a costume my little girl could be proud of. Secretly, I was rather proud of it myself. My mom sat in the audience the night of the pageant and when she saw the costume she leaned over and whispered, “looks like you bought it off the rack”. Go, Mom.

I am not fond of the word can’t. Used to tell my kids there is no such thing as can’t, but rather “won’t” or “I don’t want to”. Most probably most things you really apply yourself to do, can be done. Not all of course, I’ve had some epic failures. Let’s face it, you can’t fail if you never try at all.

So I shall persevere today and remind myself how much I like to sit at machine creating lovely things with fabric. Maybe you can rekindle a romance with something you used to love during this time of isolation? Make it a great and productive day.

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Have any of you been following the news story about the mysterious monolith found by helicopter pilots in a remote area of the Utah desert? On a mission to count bighorn sheep, the pilots spotted a tall metal structure buried in the ground. Curious, they landed to investigate the strange sighting. The monolith looked exactly like the one the chimpanzees found in 2001 Space Odyssey. Such a weird movie that one. I saw it on my first honeymoon at a theater in downtown San Francisco. My new husband loved the film, where I found it odd and more than a bit disturbing. This recent story seems to lean closer to my line of thinking, for as strangely as the unusual structure appeared, it has now vanished with no explanation offered. To add teeth to this mystery, the same day the monolith disappeared in the Utah desert, another monolith appeared out of nowhere in Romania. Wow. Good stuff here. Nobody loves an unexplained alien story better than me, or any good story for that matter.

I’ve mentioned many times I am an avid reader. Truth be known I have carried on somewhat of a love affair with words most of my life. The original seed, I believe, was planted by my maternal grandparents who provided my overly active young mind with a library of books to keep me out of trouble. I can remember climbing through the looking glass with Alice, sneaking into Mr. McGregor’s garden with Peter Rabbit and spending days on the farm with Honeybunch. Long winters in Nova Scotia lent themselves nicely to lying by the fire, book in hand, and going off on adventures in faraway lands or unraveling puzzling mysteries, For me, having a book to read is sort of an extension of my own life, an added dimension if you will. Books offer up a window into another person’s imagination often not available by simply engaging in conversation with them. I know when I write I share pieces of me with my reading audience I might not otherwise lay out on the table.

Sci-fi has never really been my bag. The only science fiction writer, more horror really with an occasional sci-fi flair, would be Stephen King. If I could write like him, well, I’d be rich and famous just like him now wouldn’t I? I’d be living in a big house in Maine and married to Tabitha. I always thought it was so serendipitous he married a woman named Tabitha (for those of you old enough to have tuned in Bewitch, you will understand the reference here). What a story teller King is. I think a lot of readers discount his writings because of the genre, but his stories, in particular The Stand, are compelling in so many ways far beyond the horror aspects of the plot lines. Carrie was his first novel, followed by Salem’s Lot, one of my favorites. I can remember reading the latter on the subway going into work in Boston. I got so engrossed in the story line, by the time I looked up I had gone three stops past where I needed to get off. Stepping off into the snow coered station I found myself at the Harvard for the first time since I’d moved to the state. I never got back there again in the next three years before returning to California, so I always credit Salem’s Lot with allowing me the chance to see the beautiful campus before I left.

For all we know, aliens walk among us. If you’ve ever watched some of those National Geographic specials featuring “deep sea creatures” you have to wonder if some if those odd looking beings didn’t fly in on the mother craft. So peculiar. Well, let’s face it some of the African animals like giraffes or anteaters could easily fill in as extras in Star Wars. Aliens, I would suppose, could be totally different life forms then what we expect to see. They could be gaseous clouds, miniscule parasites, or even plants. For all I know, the poinsettia innocently sitting in the pot on the living room table could be an alien life form left here to spy on it’s human host.

It will be interesting to follow the monoliths. Most assuredly this is a human occurrence, not little green men going about the planet toying with our minds. However, there are so many unexplained “alien” sightings over the years makes you wonder what really is floating around out there. Look at the space men painted on caves by early man. Without ever seeing another group of humans in another part of the world how was it they all captured similar images? Then there is runway in Peru? I could go on and on, I often do. Anyhow, a little alien to think about today rather than the virus, the economy, the fact I haven’t done any Christmas shopping yet, and let’s not forget the transition of power in D.C. Sigh. Let’s go back to the aliens.

It’s intriguing the idea of other beings. The missing pieces about such other-wordly travelers, however, could turn out to be a little unsettling. It isn’t written anywhere they would necessarily be friendly visitors. Maybe, like in War of the Worlds, the aliens might want to inhabit our planet, and would expect us to give our 30 day notice. Also, who knows what bacteria or general space cooties beings from other galaxies might carry? I guarantee generating an effective vaccine for an alien virus might be challenging.

On the subject of vaccines, I guess several vaccines have been approved or are near the approval stage for Covid-19. Thank God. I had my second Covid test yesterday to confirm I am virus free. Hopefully, I will get the results in several days. Being an over achiever, I have gone and gotten a secondary infection in my sinuses. This now will require two weeks on antibiotics. My friend was dismayed I had to take another regimen of medicine. I look at it a little differently, I am thankful we have such amazing drugs to take. Don’t misunderstand me, I am a terrible patient. I avoid adding any new pill to my daily regimen at all costs, but if there is one specifically aimed at improving my day to day life and returning to me to good health, well bring it on.

I hope this finds you safe and well. As I said in my last blog keep vigilant, this virus is rough and tough.

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