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Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My life is so upside down at the moment, all I need is to slap some sliced pineapple dotted with a few maraschino cherries on it and call it good. The phone rings incessantly. Dale is a well loved man. It is a tribute to him that so many people care about his well being and wish him well. He is playing a good defensive game, with all of us at the sidelines as his cheerleaders, but eventually, not withstanding a miracle, the cancer will most likely be the victorious opponent. Meanwhile, we support him in any way we can, and try to make each day as memorable as possible to carry us when we no longer have him to create new memories. All in all, a very melancholy, sometime joyous, and totally exhausting rite of passage.

I wonder often, as I have been in this same position twice in three years, why some humans have to suffer before moving on. Why when our time is done here on earth, we couldn’t simply drift out in a poof of glistening, fragrant, smoke evaporating seamlessly into the hereafter. “What is the purpose of the pain?”, I ask before going to bed each night, but as yet I have received no answer.

Today was the first day of fall actually feeling like the season had arrived. The sky is slightly overcast, with gray clouds block the sun at regular intervals suggesting the storm predicted to be on it’s way. According to the weatherman, the expected rainfall is not by way of a blockbuster, providing torrential downpours, but rather a trickle as opposed to a a steady flow. As dry as we are here on the west coast any precipitation at all is a cause for celebration at this point, so we’ll take it. Bring it on I say.

As I’ve said ad nauseam at this point, I live in a very small house. It is a sweet, and seductively cozy house, but was I to describe it, certainly spacious would never be an adjective I’d employ. Built in the 1930’s, there is no garage. I downsized considerably when moving here after selling my house. That being said, even with sluffing off a lot of household possessions, I still had more than I had room for. To avoid paying additional monies out every month for storage, my son-in-law built me a storage shed in the back yard to store my overflow in. Needless to say, I have filled that area up quite nicely. There are two things I really miss in this house when comparing it to my previous. First, as I said, a garage, and I also miss my large capacity side by side refrigerator. Yesterday at Costco I spied one the size of Rhode Island. This monster was equipped with enough room top and bottom to store a whole human should the need arise. Let’s face it, it is getting towards Halloween, and one never knows when such a situation might come up. For a mere $3,100, I could have had that puppy delivered. For a moment, just a blissful moment, I teetered on the brink of contemplating ownership of that bad boy, before gathering my senses and better judgement together and deciding to leave the store without regret. Driving the route towards my house, I kept imagining the glorious abandon of having ample room to store leftovers without having to generate a flow chart and make unfortunate decisions about what container was to be saved, and which ones fate was to be written at the bottom of my kitchen trash bin. When I came home, I rearranged my small freezer for the fourteenth time in two days and reminded myself to find my grateful space and remain in it until I got over it. Still there.

Aside from turning the thermostat from cool to heat, it is also time to switch out my closet from summer clothes to warmer wear. This, I have to say, is a project I detest. “Susie, old girl”, I told myself as I schlepped one plastic bin after another back and forth from the shed to the house, “you have wayyyyyyy too may clothes”. I do love clothes. Can’t lie. I blame my mother for this. If she was standing here and I said that, she wouldn’t even defend the statement. Always, my mother was a fashion plate. Never did I see her disheveled or unkempt. He outfits were coordinated from the tips of her earlobes all the way down to the glistening shine on the nails on her toes. Her hair was styled weekly, and remained in that style until the following week when it was washed and styled again, and cut and colored as needed. My mother’s hair has always been a bit of a “thing” in our family. Literally, it was something to be admired and revered. As if an entity unto itself, we weren’t allowed to touch it or get it wet. Once, at a summer party, my mother accidentally backed into the deep end of my daughter’s pool disappearing under water. When she arose from the dark abyss like Phoenix from the ashes, her “do” was dripping limply in her face. We were all so shocked to see her like that, and yes a bit terrified, nobody moved to help her for a minute until she suggested someone needed to do so. That, shall we say, literally doused that evening’s plans and an emergency appointment had to be secured at the local salon the following day to repair the damage. I see you shaking your heads. Every family has it’s thing that places that seed of dread when mentioned, ours just happens to be my mother’s coiffure. What can I say?

nClothes came in a close second to hair. Mother had work clothes, play clothes, evening clothes, spring clothes, summer clothes, fall clothes, winter clothes, and shoes, oh, the shoes. Once, I counted sixty-five pairs in her closet. That was her all time record as far as I know. They were excellent quality, the lady had taste, and my stepfather I’m sure probably had no idea what the price tag of this stiletto collection actually amounted to. When hats were fashionable, the top of her closet was lined with colorful hat boxes. Inside could be found all manner of head wear, some of the small pillbox variety that perched on top of your head, others larger and covering more cranial space, some had veils, others without, and each was purchased with an outfit hanging somewhere in her closet. When she was gone at work, I would sometimes open the closet door and model some of the lovely creations inside in front of her full length mirror. Later when grown, she told me she knew I was doing this because I never put them back the way she might have, but she thought it was sweet so allowed me to continue. Whew, dodged a bullet there.

Since work is no longer a place I go to every day my work clothes have been donated or handed down to friends, and my closet mainly consists these days of play clothes. I have stacks of jeans, shorts, sweaters, blouses, tee shirts and sweatshirts. It’s rare these days I get dressed up. Where am I going? The Queen hasn’t stopped by for tea in years. People at the market, at least up here in our area, sometimes show up to shop in there pajamas, so a dress code is really not in play around here. It’s not like my social life has been abuzz with activity over the past five years. When Rick and I had the restaurant, I had a whole closet of dresses. We were in the restaurant most nights, so had to look like we were somewhat professional. Those too have disappeared in a bin somewhere with only a few stragglers left in reserve for weddings, funerals, or the occasional big night out.

I remember when I was little I had to get “dressed up” for church. My feet were held in check in the dreaded Mary Janes. Bunnies or ducks adored my ankles on the fold of my crisp white socks, and a hat was sometimes tied under my chin for good measure. Being more of a tomboy than a girlie girl, for me this was tantamount to being tied to a chair and given Chinese water torture. My grandmother never attended church in anything but a dress or a suit. Always there was a hat, usually with a veil pulled over her forehead, to accompany her outfit. A pair of gloves was either in her purse or covering her hands, and over her shoulder, in the winter months at least, was draped her fox stole. I never warmed up to that particular garment, largely because the foxes used to create it were still attached to it. To me it always looked frightening and smelled a little gamey, but to ladies of the time it was quite the deal. Each generation has their nuances, I’m glad that one didn’t slop over on ours down the road.

At any rate, I have managed to switch the closet. Sooooo glad that job is behind me. I took all the extra junk from the shed I didn’t need, and piled it into my car and went to the dump to dispose of it. What a fragrant and messy place that must be to work. All that aroma in one place sort of gets my stomach to turning. I’m not good with strong smells. Even those stores in the mall dedicated to fragrant soaps, perfumes, scented candles, and the like, make me feel like revisiting my lunch. I’ve always known I wouldn’t be the ideal candidate for nursing school or a nursery attendant. I remember when changing my own children’s diapers I had to use one hand, reserving the other one for plugging my nostrils. Ah well, each of us has different things in our makeup to contend with, that is mine.

At least I’m feeling so much lighter for now until, of course, I get new junk to replace that which I threw away. For today, however, I feel light as a feather, at least when it comes to possessions. At this crossroad in my world, I will take the highs when and where I can get therm.

Have a lovely fall day!! Talk soon.

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There are lessons, as I’ve often said, to be learned from all experiences we encounter in our lives. For me, going through my second caregiver experience in four years, I am learning many lessons along the way. One becoming particularly clear to me, is learning not only to give help, but to receive help in return. I have never been very good in that department. I’m the one in the kitchen after a large dinner party standing next to a massive pile of dishes saying “no, I’ve got it, thanks” when a guest pops in their head to offer some assistance. Just what I’ve always done. These days, on a bit of an overload, I find when a hand reaches out I am more likely to accept it.

I have always been independent as a being. One thing I have learned while running the rapids in my life is the one person who always had my back should I fall overboard (which I often did), was me. Now, this is not to discount in any way all the wonderful friends I have had and do have, or my family. It is simply I knew when things got rough I could, in most instances, take care of myself. Truth is, I am finding, we all need other people to lend a hand at one time or another.

Being a scorpio by birth, I tend to follow some of the traits commonly mentioned when discussing my sun sign. Secretive, comes to mind, for example. For the most part I am a private being. Aside from being a November baby, this could also have something to do with being an only child, particularly one brought up in a cold climate. Winters in Nova Scotia could pack a substantial punch. Often as a youngster I was stuck inside with a storm raging beyond the windows leaving me to provide my own entertainment when not doing something with my mother or my grandparents. Unlike the little house I live in now, the house I grew up in was large, including two floors of generous living space, a basement and an attic. I wonder at times was I to visit there now would I find it as majestic as my child’s mind envisions, but to me when I was little it was a palace and I the resident princess. The door to the attic was, as to be expected, on the second floor just outside of the spare bedroom. A chrome key dangled from an hourglass shaped hole in the lock. I had been told never to unlock it without permission from a grownup, but as my grandmother would be happy to attest to was she here, I did not always listen to what I was told to do. There were three bedrooms in total on the second floor, plus a bathroom, and a large sitting room where the only TV in the house made it’s home. Sundays, if my grandfather was home from rounds at the hospital (he was urologist), we ate our main meal at noontime after church in the dining room. Later in the day, a light supper was served in the sitting room on TV trays. My grandfather would seat himself in front of the small black and white TV set and his chest would rise up and down and he watched Lucy and Ethyl get up to what Lucy and Ethyl got up to best, trouble. After that Ed Sullivan would show up for an hour of variety and then it was off to bed, for me at least. I was thinking while writing this, Elvis Presley had to filmed from the waist up back in those day when on the Sullivan show because he undulated his hips suggestively while singing. Those censors would be really surprised at what shows up for them to monitor on the TV these days. I saw a show advertised the other day called “Naked and Afraid”. At first I thought it was show about the agonies of bathing suit shopping in the spring, but then looking into it further, not too much further, I discovered the plot line revolved around two strangers asked to survive together naked on an island for 21 days. Really? The worst part…..wait for it, they had no phones. I KNOW. Good lord. Seriously, if I don’t have better things to do with my time I need to do a total reexamination of my life path.

When I get to feeling shaky under my feet I sometimes think of that lovely house I grew up in and the people inhabiting it. That solid foundation I was given in the first nine years of my life, most likely provided me with the balance and strength to deal with my crazy life that came after it. Having healthy and nurturing relationships in those formative years, or so I’ve heard, has a great deal to do with shaping who you are as a person as you mature. Certainly I have done many things over the years since leaving my grandparents home that most likely would make them raise an eyebrow or two, but thanks to their guidance and love I have always righted my ship again and gotten it back on the right course.

I am asked regularly of late how I am doing. With Dale in a cancer battle, the obvious answer would be not great. However, actually we are maintaining quite well considering the circumstances. I believe when people ask that question, they really don’t want me to answer in detail. A simple, “fine”, or “so-so” will suffice and let’s move on. That works for me. I have a therapist who gets paid to listen to my woeful stories, so I try not to go on and on about things that might be depressing or sad when a friend is kind enough to inquire, but rather stick to the Readers Digest version and just provide the bulleted items.

This has been a week where I have really had to test my leaning on others capabilities as I have been fighting a miserable little bug that has taken up with my lung cavities and seems reluctant to leave. It sent me to bed for five days and even though I’m up and moving around again it lingers on causing me to go into coughing fits that with COVID running around has people giving me a wide berth. It is not COVID, as that was the first test they gave me when I showed up presenting symptoms at the doctor’s office. It is bronchitis, however, but I was told after a week I shouldn’t be contagious. I am the world’s worst patient. Staying in bed is like a prison for me, when forced to do it on a long term basis. So, today I finally gave in and began the prescription of antibiotics I was given in the event the germ didn’t vacate the premises on it’s own by this weekend. Sigh. I’m not complaining. Well, maybe I am just a little. Thank God we have these drugs to avail ourselves of. Imagine what people did back in the day when there weren’t any cures in a bottle for what ailed you. They died, is what they did. I’m not a fan of medication if you can avoid it, but certainly understand the value these miracle medicines have brought to our world. Measles, although on the rise again, would still be plaguing our population or polio, or smallpox, and so many other nasty little germ populations bent on attacking our immune systems and culling the herd.

On my bookshelf, I keep a small reminder of how medicine was practiced when my great-grandfather, Joshua, was plying his craft. It is a diminutive brass mortar and pestle which he used to prepare his medicines for his patients. Medical school, when Joshua attended, would most probably have included three years of study, a thesis and oral exams because that is the amount of information they had to pass on to doctors in training. I’m sure they didn’t spend the next twenty years paying of their college loans back then either. So many things we take for granted now simply hadn’t been heard of or explored at the time my great grandfather was running about Nova Scotia in his horse and buggy delivering babies and an occasional calf or two. My great grandmother, Susan (who I was named after) was twenty years Joshua’s junior. Susan, from all accounts, was quite a lively girl who gave Joshua a run for his money. I remember my grandmother telling me Susan (or Susie as she was called) often complained that she never had linens in the house because Joshua would strip the clean bedding off and pile it in his rig in case he needed it when visiting a patient.

I jump back and forth across the fence when contemplating if life was simpler then, or more difficult. I think medically it was far more taxing. I can’t imagine, as I said a few blogs ago, having to deliver a baby back in pioneer days. These women regularly died in childbirth or didn’t live to be a very ripe old age. So, today I am celebrating having a small pill to go in and fight my battles for me. I’m also giving a nod to my great grandfather, who I’m sure was an excellent physician, and all the physicians out there fighting COVID on the front lines.

How I got on this subject from needing a helping hand I have no explanation. Ah well, thank you for stopping by. Have a great day. Go 49er’s!!!

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A friend of mine recently started dating for the first time since going through a messy divorce about five years ago. Her children are grown, so that is one issue she won’t have to deal with. Still, dipping your toe in the dating pool again is a slippery slope when you first put yourself back out there. On this specific subject, I can speak with some authority having been married four times. Now, having been married four times certainly does not qualify me as an expert. Let’s be real, betting on four horses who never crossed the finish line is not exactly to be considered a stellar track record. However, those unions and others have left me with a sizable bank of experience on the topic of relationships at this stage of the game. For the most part, I have already fallen in most of the potholes encountered while looking love, and climbed back out of them more times than I care to mention. Hopefully, I have gathered a little knowledge to take with me each time I made it back to the surface.

I was thinking about Rick and our first date. He took me to a hockey game in San Jose. The Sharks were playing the Canucks. At the time, we were still at the stage where we were gathering information about one another. The fact I am Canadian by birth hadn’t been a topic we’d discussed at any length. Seated in his excellently positioned season ticket seats, we had a great view of the ice. Naturally, being in the Shark’s home stadium, the stands were packed with ardent Sharks fans wearing all manner of team shirts and waving Sharks paraphernalia. A man two seats over from me had his head completely obscured by a full size shark head with a hole in front where he could watch the game between the teeth. When the Canucks took the ice something deep in my roots pushed my nationalism button and I began whooo-hooing vigorously for the Canadian players. Rick turned to stare at me with his mouth fully agape. Aside from the fact he was a die hard Sharks fan, this was not recommended behavior when seated smack in the middle of a huge pool of fans rooting for the other side.The man who’s face appeared in the middle of the sharks teeth turned and actually stuck his tongue out at me. Really? In spite of a bit of a rocky start to the evening, people forgot my indiscretion in the heat of the game, and we had so much fun. Talking came easily between us. After the game was over, and my Canucks had plummeted down like a maple leaf swirling in a stiff breeze, we decided to go to a local hot spot where there were video games lining the aisles of every type and description. Sitting side by side on motorcycles connected to a screen in front of us, we leaned left and then right. Manipulating the controls on the handlebars, an animated screen simulated our movements as if we were actually careening along the highway faced with obstacles along our way. That, I have to say, was the highlight of the night for me. By the time we said our goodbyes, we’d sewn the first seeds in what was to be a nearly twenty year relationship.

I have had some really memorable dates over the years, both good and bad. Just because you remember an evening, doesn’t always mean you recall the details for the right reasons. Getting married the first time at the ripe old age of nineteen, I never dated as a legal adult until I was single again at twenty-seven. Though unattached, as far as relationship status on my Income Tax papers, I did not consider myself unattached. There were two children in the picture. This puts dating on a very different level. Being a single mother is very rewarding but it isn’t a walk in the park. All the parenting falls to you, and the decisions you make whether the right ones or the wrong ones, lead back to your door as well. Essentially, though there were stepfathers in the picture, my biological father died when I was one year old, so I consider myself raised by a single mother as well. After my father passed away, my mother didn’t start dating again until I was around four. I was her point man. As she likes to tell it, if a date came to pick her up at the front door, I would look up at the man she was going out with and say, “are you going to be my daddy”? There it was, I was a buzz kill at four. As you can imagine that cooled off a lot of engines before the first rush of gas even made it to the carburetor. Looking back, I think I was interviewing for the job. My mom was a beautiful young woman, so there were a lot of eligible men interested in getting her attention, who I perceived as potential fathers. About two years into the program, I had made my choice from the selection I’d been given of the gentlemen in her social circle. Admiral Fox, was his name, Foxy to his friends. The first time I saw the admiral, he arrived to pick up my mother to take her to a dinner dance. As my grandmother was to describe him, the admiral was a “tall drink of water”. When he entered the house from the foyer and stepped into the downstairs hall, he had to remove his hat to keep from knocking it off as he walked through the door. An impressive man by any standards, to me he looked like a prince standing before us. Bending down to shake my hand, I thought him resplendent in his naval uniform adorned with all manner of medals detailing the history of his military achievements. Interested in winning over my mother, and understanding the chain of command standing between him and that goal being my grandmother and then myself, he wisely brought my grandmother flowers and for me a sailor’s hat plus an armload of comic books. He had my vote tucked in his well decorated pocket before he left on my mother’s arm for the evening. Unfortunately, though he was my choice for hero, he was not to be my mother’s. The heart wants, what the heart, wants, and in the end Foxy was not what my mother’s heart wanted. That being said, after a lovely lunch on the aircraft carrier Admiral Fox commanded and several dinners and outings following, I bid a regretful “ships ahoy” to the admiral and the search for a dad continued. Note to reader here, I am still on that mission.

I was allowed to begin dating, other then in coed groups, when I was fifteen. The one place I was forbidden to go whether as a couple or with other couples, was the drive-in. My parents viewed drive-ins as hot beds of raging hormones populated by steamed up windows and overheated teenagers. Which, of course, is exactly what they were. Mother was a bit of a helicopter parent, before the phrase had ever been coined. I can remember when I was in high school she would send my dog in the den with us if I had invited a boy over. To preface, my dog, a tiny Pomeranian named Mandy, didn’t like men. This, largely due to the fact my stepfather didn’t like dogs. It was a Mexican standoff between the two of them and there were to be no winners. He would make his distaste evident by leaving her in the back yard when she wanted to come in or yelling loudly when she barked. She, would exact revenge by urinating in his slippers or lying in wait for him as he was headed to the kitchen for coffee, and nipping at the back of his ankles. Even more than the dog’s dislike for men, she resented anyone sharing my affections. If she detected someone else was getting more attention than she was, she would give it her best effort to level the playing field. Positioning herself between my date and I on the couch. If I put her down, she’d jump back up. If I removed her from the room entirely, she would sit outside the door and howl until let back in again. If put outside she would scratch at the screen until my mother let her in. What she lacked in menacing stature, the dog made up for in dogged (pardon the pun) tenacity. I believe she was in fact a well trained agent in my mother’s network of spies. If the boy as much as lifted his arm to scratch his nose, Mandy would curl back one lip and growl menacingly. Should he try to place that arm around my neck, my diminutive guardian might attempt a coup and snap her teeth together in his direction. In her defense, though she could appear menacing, she never bit anybody. That being said, she could be a fierce little defender when the spirit moved her.

The trouble, beyond the obvious, with ending a relationship with one person, is eventually you most probably will have to begin a new one with someone else. This means starting at Ground 0 once again, answering all the familiar questions and establishing new bonds with yet another potential mate. The song “Getting To Know You” is now freely streaming in my head. Sometimes I think I’d rather get a puppy or a bird and just leave it at that. Other things to think about might be if the new man or woman in your life has children. If they do, it will mean meeting them. Just because you are enamored with one of their parents, does not offer any guarantee you will feel the same way about his or her offspring, nor them about you. Friends too can be a problem, especially best friends, if there isn’t a connection to be found there. The more I write about this the more attractive adopting a little Corgi puppy is beginning to sound.

Thankfully, Dale and I haven’t had any problems over the last couple of years. He is a likeable being who attracts likeable beings to him making the whole process so much easier. He, in turn, likes my friends, an eclectic bunch, but very lovable. I like them just that way, and wouldn’t change a hair on their pointy little heads. Always I have chosen to associate myself with interesting, somewhat complicated, fun human beings. People who can see more than one side of the coin, and have something interesting to contribute when sitting across the table from you. I also like people who are willing to get a bit silly at times, dance in the moonlight, or sing karaoke even if totally off tune like myself. People, I guess you might say, not afraid to color outside the lines on occasion, wear white after Labor Day, or live their lives without having to always do the “right thing” at the “right time”.

Many times I have gone on dates where I knew in the first ten minutes of the evening would last for only that one encounter. Chemistry, I believe, is not something that can be created. It is either there, or it is not. For whatever reason like little fireflies blinking in the dark, some people’s lights shine brighter for us than others, and that is a fact of life. I have met people I instantly felt a connection with, both friends and love interests. People who I could talk to right out of the gate, and share a commonality with that would endure over the years. Other people, and I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences, I could be locked in a vault with for thirty days and a single spark would never ignite between us.

There are certain traits I have identified over years of dating, I choose to avoid. I don’t enjoy people who still have the first dollar they ever earned. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not a high maintenance female, but also I don’t like someone who when you share a tab tells you your share is $15.92 exactly. It is important to establish from the beginning who you are and what you enjoy doing before you fully commit to getting to know someone. For example, your idea of fun is staying in binge watching “The Crown” and ordering take-out on weekends, and he is a guy who climbs Half Dome for fun on Saturdays or has a kayak rack on top of his SUV you have to wonder how that is going to work out on down the road when the fairy dust has dispersed. Picking the right partner in the sea of humanity we have to choose from is no task for the feint of heart I’m telling you. I always admire people who do so successfully in the beginning and remain in one union for sixty or so years.

So my thoughts for a Monday. Rick’s birthday was yesterday. Seems like he was sitting next to me in the car last week and it has been nearly three years since he passed away. Happy Birthday dear Ducky. Thinking of you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Recently I spent the night at a dear friend’s house on the way home from visiting my son in the Bay Area. Her house, a gorgeously appointed home, reminds me of an aerie. It sits perched high on a hill offering up a view of the San Jose valley stretching all the way to the Santa Cruz mountains. Typical of such a nest, birds seem to be visible anywhere you look. This, most likely due to the multiple bird feeders dangling from the branches of the prolific fruit trees lining the property. While sitting on her patio, it would not be unexpected to have a hummingbird stop by to check out who is hiding behind the sunglasses you are wearing, It’s a favorite hangout of mine. When I visit, we begin our days seated across the counter from one another in her bright, welcoming kitchen. There we discuss shared interests such as cooking and art, solve the world’s problems, and generally catch up on family news. While seated at that counter she has tried and failed miserably on numerous occasions to teach me to crochet. Crocheting is something she is exceptionally gifted at, and I, as my track record will attest, am not. This we always do over a cup of hot tea, served properly in a delicate china cup and saucer. Like me, she was born in Canada. You’d never catch a traditional Canadian serving tea in a mug. She was born on the west coast, namely British Columbia, while I arrived in the world all the way to the east in Nova Scotia. Though we’ve both kept a lot of the basic substance that makes us Canadian, she migrated to the U.S. as an adult, instead of coming here as a child as I did. Perhaps because of this, she has retained more of the Canadian colloquialisms in her speech. Eh, comes up often in her conversations, where in my case, you would rarely here me say it.

Cleaning up after dinner, I noticed her washing out a resealable bag. I asked why she would not just toss it in the trash. I didn’t think it would be a hardship for her to purchase a new box of bags should she run out. She explained, though financially comfortable at this time in her life, she grew up, as she put it, “church poor”. The clothes she wore were either hand me downs from her older sister, often missing a button or sporting a jelly stain on the collar, or something picked up at the church rummage sales formally worn by someone else’s child in the congregation. Once, she said, her mother got her a pair of shoes that were several sizes too big. In spite of the fact they didn’t fit her feet properly, she was thrilled because they clop, clop, clopped as she walked along, making her feel very grown up. That being said, she learned not to waste what she was given, lest a replacement wasn’t forthcoming anytime soon. Made me think about how much our childhood experiences are tightly woven into the fabric of our adulthood. Good or bad, our formative years, though they do not define us, do help to shape us into who we are as adults.

It’s funny how all the things we are taught as children seem to stick with us like flies to flypaper throughout our lives. I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast, but I make my bed every morning before coming out for the day just as I was taught to do in my first tiny bedroom. Traditions honored in our homes growing up, are often carried along with us when we have established homes of our own. Traveling across the U.S. in my earlier years I was privy to a lot of different traditions and ways of doing things. Some which I packed in my bag and brought along with me, others I sampled and left behind. While living in the south and in West Virginia, it wasn’t always possible to travel to the west coast to visit my family when the holidays rolled around. If in town, my husband and I often shared holiday meals with friends and their families living nearby. Traditions clearly illuminate themselves during such occasions. At each household where we enjoyed either a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, their families customs would be evident first and foremost in the kitchen. If a turkey was to be the main course, the stuffing (or dressing, depending on your preference), was usually a recipe handed down from the previous generation, who it turn had gotten it from the one before. Each house had it’s own approach to the same recipes. Do you add the giblets or leave them out? Is yours a mixture of cornbread and white, or do you stick with one or the other? Where some cooks stuff the bird before popping it in the oven, others cook the dressing separately. This followed on down to how they cooked the turkey, or if they had turkey at all. For some families it was ham or prime rib that was to be the star of the meal. However it went, it all seemed to align with what their parents had done at their tables and how they had prepared it. I know I often say if complimented on my potato salad, “thanks, it’s my mom’s recipe”. I know she learned it from her mother, because I heard her often say it when complimented herself.

Certainly there are recipes my children will ask for when I’m under their roofs. For my son, it would be twice baked potatoes, and my daughter often wants me to cook poached eggs. Funny, I end up doing poached eggs for friends as well. Interesting, it’s really not rocket science, but for whatever reason I seem to have developed a knack for cooking them well. A latent talent there really isn’t much call for in the current market.

Grandparents are tasked with passing on some of what they have picked up along the way to their grandchildren. When I was down visiting my son and his brood, I spent some time with his oldest, my granddaughter, Ailish. Ailish had gotten a sewing machine, but had never used one. I have sewn for years. At one time I had an entire booth set up I used for local fairs and art and wine shows to sell both my hand sewn items as well as my artwork. These days I still find myself seated at my machine around the holidays whipping out aprons for my friends or family members, or on occasion doing some quick alterations for people in my life who can’t sew. Other than that, I don’t have the time, nor the energy with everything going on at present to thread a needle. Being able to show my granddaughter, however, was such a treat. To hand down a few pointers to get her started for me was so very special. This was a gift that cost nothing, but gave something both to her and to myself. Loved it.

With our busy lives these days, a lot of traditions have been forgotten, or simply been thrown out the window. We eat on the run, rather than stopping for a moment to come together over a meal. Instead of being seated at the table with friends or family, we often grab something on the run or even eat at different schedules. Perhaps the kids eat at a TV tray in front of the TV or in their rooms with their video games or cell phones, while you find yourself standing at the counter picking at the remains of last night’s take-out order. There is something elegant, even decadent, about sitting down to a nice meal, to me at least. The act of removing a cloth napkin from a decorative ring, lighting a candle in the center of the table, and eating off a lovely plate at a nice place setting makes for a dining experience and not just something to put in your mouth. Several younger women in my circle make breakfast in a blender or bullet. Everything but the cat is dropped in there in there in the morning, and with the push of a button reduced to mulch. Once the caldron has been primed, the liquid is poured into another container, and either sipped or gulped down on the way to work, the gym, or wherever else they might be headed. In my experience no matter what goes in them, these drinks end up a rather uninviting green color. Though I have no issue with green, it is after all the color of nature. However, when offered up in a drink, I find it less palatable. There isn’t a green vegetable I’m not happy to see on my plate, oh, except kale and okra. God knows I’ve tried to like both, but there’s something about them that leaves me wanting less, or preferably none at all. I’ve recently discovered arugula, and find I really like it. Rick used to tell me his grandfather, a scientist, ate arugula every day to keep his mind and body healthy. This was a tradition Rick allowed to fade into the background and disappear. I wouldn’t need to have it every day, but it’s certainly better than kale.

My grandmother gave me so many traditions I still practice in my life. In my drawer the other day I came across a packet of letters written in my grandmother’s hand. Her handwriting was very distinguishable, almost artistic. I would recognize it anywhere. Up until the several years before she died, she wrote me letters. Always I enjoyed seeing one of her envelopes in my mailbox. With her flair for telling a story, she would bring me up-to-date on my cousins in Canada or what other relatives she was in touch with had been up to. It made me feel part of my distant clan rather than having the many miles we had between us. Nobody writes letters anymore. It is another lost tradition, as are thank-you notes. I think the only time I’ve gotten a thank you note in recent years was following a wedding where the bride was acknowledging a wedding present I’d given to them. I guess if they’re not even teaching cursive in the classroom anymore, I won’t look for these to make a resurgence in the future.

Aside from family traditions, we absorb traditions familiar to our area, our religion, our race, and even our neighborhoods. My traditions have at times varied drastically from the people I was associated with. Rick, as I’ve mentioned many times, was born in Cairo, Egypt. Cairo was home, until he came to the U.S. to attend college. Egypt has always held a sort of fascination for me. Growing up, I wrote nearly every essay in geography or history about Egypt. I wanted to be either an archaeologist or Egyptologist when I grew up. As I am not writing this in a tent at a dig in an exotic location, you might guess I really didn’t hit close to the mark. In the nearly twenty years Rick and I spent together, he answered many questions for me about life in Cairo and Egyptian traditions. The fact he had seen the great pyramids, even ridden there on a camel, was enough to make him a hero in my book. He had boxes of pictures for me to look at, and so many details to fill in, I would never had known had not he shared them with me. It was in such contrast to my upbringing in Nova Scotia. Had we planned it, we probably couldn’t have created two more opposite upbringings.

When we spoke of Cairo, our conversations often turned to food, and for Rick, coffee. Being foodies both were subjects we had a personal investment in. Coffee houses were big gathering spots in Cairo. At the time he was there, they were only frequented only by men. They would gather there to drink tea and smoke flavored tobacco through a hookah. Strong, turkish coffee was also served in these cafes as well as espresso. When he first arrived in Michigan, where he was to go to school, he was surprised to discover he couldn’t get espresso anywhere. Coffee wasn’t the trendy drink it has morphed into these days. Remember when you just ordered a cup of coffee, and the only additional information required by the server was whether you wanted it black or took it with cream and sugar? The original Starbucks opened in Seattle in 1971, so if you weren’t around before then, the answer to that question would no. Now when ordering a cup of coffee, you have to stipulate what blend, temperature, size, and even strength. You need a coffee map to order. When living in Boston, the first time I ordered a cup they asked if I wanted my coffee regular. I had no idea how to answer that question. Was there an irregular? Turned out regular was with cream and sugar, light just cream, and then black, if that was your preference.

Today is definitely not a hot beverage kind of day. The thermometer on the porch reads nearly 100. In spite of this fact, I noticed in the stores the other day Halloween decorations are beginning to replace displays featuring coolers or beach umbrellas. Fall, for me, can’t arrive too soon. With the delta variant of this incredibly persistent virus beginning to set the rules for the nation, it makes me wonder what the holidays are to look like this year. I was hoping with both Covid and the vaccinations behind us, there might be a lighter feel to the festivities this year. This remains to be seen, of course, and I will welcome the holidays with whatever they bring.

A friend asked me the other day if I thought our world would ever look the same. Tough question. Since I’m trying to give up clairvoyance, I didn’t have a good answer for her. Truth is does it ever look the same? It may feel like life goes on without change day after day at times when you’re bored or unmoved by what’s going on around it, but it is endlessly changing and we shift and change with it. Summer melts into fall, fall into winter. We tuck away our shorts in a box, and bring out our sweaters and boots. I thought by now I would have sacrificed my masks and begun a renewal of sorts when it comes to all the Covid reports, but it is what it is. I only have one friend who remains unvaccinated and we had a discussion about it yesterday. Being a friend, is staying on the sidelines often and keeping clean boundaries. Part of that is not butting in when we haven’t been asked our opinions on a particular subject and respecting the other person’s point of view. In this case, I stepped over the line for a moment, and suggested she put her arm out and get a shot. Her family has had theirs, and apparently now vaccinated people can transmit it to those who are unprotected. I explained I love her, and was getting extremely tired of saying goodbye to beloved people in my life. I believe my arrow hit its mark, as we signed off with her going to look for a local place to get the injection.

So, on that note I will look wistfully towards the end of summer and welcoming in the cooler months. Fall being the season of my birth, I have a special affinity for this time of year. There’s something so cozy about walking along a street, bundled up against a cool wind, and hearing the crunching of the fallen leaves under your shoes. When the days begin to draw in, and darkness falls earlier, I like to be tucked in and warm inside with a candle burning and something hot and delicious bubbling in a pot on the stove.

My grandmother used to always tell me “Don’t wish your life away”, if I wished for time to pass more quickly. This year holds so many mysteries yet to unfold, I will settle for being in this day and try to make it eventful and interesting. I wish you the same and a happy weekend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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