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Archive for the ‘starting over’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Let me start by saying I’m not a big fan of Daylight Savings Time. Voters in California voted 60% in favor of not changing the time moving forward, but our legislators neglected to act on it. To be consistent in my goal to do nothing the way others of my kind do, I do all right when we “spring forward”, but my internal clock goes totally haywire when we “fall back”, the exact opposite of what most humans experience. According to an article I read on the subject, a week’s camping trip can do the trick in resetting your circadian rythms and your sleep patterns. Artificial light is the enemy of sleep it seems, and getting away from the TV, computer, phone, etc. allows your body to resume it’s natural rythms once again. This for me would be like water boarding. Couldn’t I just push my reset button and get on with it?

To begin with, since I hit menopause I have had trouble sleeping. As a thought here, shouldn’t that be womanopause? I’m just saying. Often you will find my lights on in the wee hours of the night. Recently, my doctor ordered a sleep study to rule out his suspicions I might be suffering from sleep apnea. I was to be observed overnight to see if I had times when I stopped breathing while asleep. Good news, I did not. Yay. However, I did entertain the technicians with the choreographed dance I performed due my restless leg syndrome. According to their notes, I sometimes moved my legs upwards of thirty times an hour. Whew. Who knew? At that rate I should be able to polish off a pepperoni pizza at seven and have it completely burned off by 10 o’clock. Sigh. Wish it did work that way. Apparently you have to be vertical and actually propelling yourself forward to eliminate those kind of calories. Darn. As much as I dislike organized exercise, this would have been the perfect solution. Lack of sleep can be a problem down the road. It can make you distracted, cause you to gain weight, or even give you a heart attack. Not to mention all that good news we are in the middle of a pandemic that is out of control so lots to keep those eyes wide open in the middle of the night. Whoopee.

There are a lot of side issues to this pandemic besides lack of sleep and anxiety. As I’m sure many people are finding, this pandemic has turned out to be not only devastating for our country and those directly affected by it, but it has also seems to have an additional side effect, the pandemic is fattening. I have noticed my electric bill has has increased substantially since staying home has become more the norm for me than the exception. Secretly, I believe this increase can be attributed directly to the number of times I’ve opened my refrigerator door since the beginning of 2020. Even though I tend to weigh in on the lean side, I have added a pants size since the beginning of the year. My doctor tells me this is a plus. He went on to say people of a certain age should carry a little extra padding in the event of an unexpected illness. Tell that to my drawer full of size 2 jeans no longer pulling up past my knees. Normally I don’t go to food when I am feeling slightly depressed. Under stress, my weight often drops alarmingly. This year, as with many things out of whack, this has not been the case. So, as I have adjusted to waddling around the house in yoga pants, I sit here at my computer watching as my behind spreads out on the chair beneath me. Sigh.

On the plus side, at last fall has arrived. Yesterday, while driving to an appointment, I was awed by the vibrant colors spreading along the hillsides. This time of year sends my energy level soaring.

My favorite fall displays though are still definitely to be found in the eastern part of our nation. When my children were toddlers we lived in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Wakefield was by all accounts a typical New England town replete with numerous church steeples peeking above the tree tops and gorgeous autumn vistas when the thermometer began to lean towards cold. I discovered quickly living on the east coast, the clothing I’d brought with me from the west coast wasn’t going to be adequate to see us through the winter. One thing about living in snow country when you have little ones, dressing them for the weather requires more clothing and much more time. Unlike sending them out in California with a light jacket, wool hat, and mittens, sending them out in the middle of winter in Massachusetts requires a lot more protection. Snow suits were purchased that first cold spell along with heavy jackets for myself and their dad. As we both worked in Boston, this added at least an hour to our morning routine to get everyone “suited up” and organizing the travel from the house to the car before heading out for our day.

The house we lived in was a large two story home, typical for the area. The house faced the lake, which was sort of the hub of the town itself. Though there was a basement and an attic, the builders had not included a garage and no one had thought to add one since. The house was built in the late 1800’s. At the time it was built, there were no cars on the road so a garage wouldn’t have been seen as a necessity unless you were planning to store your wagon in it. Though it may not have been a necessity back in the day, it certainly would have come in handy at the time we were living there. When the first heavy winter storm hit the state, we peered out the window to see the entire yard piled high with huge drifts of freshly fallen snow. Several trees appeared as shrouded figures beneath the mounds, and in the center of our yard our yellow Ford station wagon rose up like a hulking beast with not a spot of yellow paint to be seen beneath the frosty layer covering it. Sigh. The thermometer in the kitchen read frrrrrreezing. When you factored in the wind chill, it felt much colder. Though it would have been nice to crawl back under the warm comforter and curl up we had a commute to tackle and employers counting on us. If everyone in Massachusetts took a snow day off every time the weather turned disagreeable, the state would have quickly sunk into ruin and no one would have had food on the table. Employers expected you to show up snow or no snow, and the car being buried in the stuff offered up no exception.

After several abysmal attempts at getting to the car and into work on time, we came up with a plan. Kirby, my husband, would go out in the front yard with the snow shovel and dig his way to the front door of the station wagon and let himself in. Before turning on the car, we had been told you had to make sure the tailpipe was in the open so that dangerous fumes didn’t build inside the vehicle. Check and double check. Then he would turn the car on and leave it running to warm up. I was tasked with corralling the rug rats, getting them in their snow gear, getting myself ready to travel and getting them secured in their car seats. By the time we reached the babysitter’s house, that is if the snow plow had come down our street so we could, I was ready for a long winter’s nap.

Once the children were secured for the day, we drove together to the train station and boarded our first train of the morning. At the first stop, we changed trains, saying goodbye as each of us headed off in a different direction. I hopped on the Green Line into downtown with Kirby taking the Red towards the pier area where his office building was located. Once at the destination station, I stepped off with the rest of the herd and mooooed my way up the long flight of stairs to street level. On warm days, going up and down was a piece of cake, but on blustery days you held on to the handrail tightly lest you slipped on the icy steps.

My office building was an old brick structure situated on Newbury Street. During the summer the interior was hot, and in the winter cold. Often I wore two or three layers of clothing going to work, leaving a layer or two on even while sitting at my desk. The old radiators made lots of noise about heating the rooms, but didn’t provide much energy to get the job done.

Officially my job title was Assistant Area Director for the American Cancer Society. Durng my three years there, particularly during their fund drives, I would end up taking work home with me when what I had to do ran over the time I had to do it in. This winter day happened to be one such day. There were no computers around, so everything was done on paper. Stop it, I know! All my documents were put into manila folders and filed in banks of file cabinets. So, when I say “I took work home with me”, it was meant that in the most literal sense. Getting off work at 5:00 meant the sun was already tucked in bed. A light snow was falling beyond the window at the front of the building where I pulled on my sweater, my winter coat, my scarf and my wool hat. Next heavy boots were pulled on over woolen socks, my mittens secured and I was ready to step out the front door. I had forgotten my valise that day, so it was necessary to pile the file folders I was taking with me in a stack and carry them along with my lunch bag and my purse to the entrance to the subway. Several times along the slick sidewalk I nearly lost my footing. Standing at the top of the long flight of stairs I reached out with a mittened hand to grab the hand rail and piled in behind the crowd of commuters headed down into the great abyss. At about the second step I lost my footing. People shoving and pushing behind me propelled me forward. With my hands full, I was unable to right myself and as I careened forward the folders flew up in the air and paperwork rained like confetti at a parade over the people on the bottom of the stairs. Flailing at the air, I reached out on my descent and my grasping fingers wrapped around this gentleman’s tie. In a sort of awkward dance he and I lurched forward knocking people down like bowling pins before landing one on top of the other at the bottom of the stairs. His face, at that point, had turned a startling shade of purple from the tightening of his neckware cutting off his air supply. Sorry. Papers were everywhere. Most I found, the others either walked away on the bottom of someone’s boot or floated into a corner to be swept up by custodians.

Gathering up what I could along with my remaining dignity, I thanked the gentleman I had nearly strangled for being nice enough to still take the time to help me after I tried to do him in.

Often after that I saw him going down or coming up. Always he stayed a safe distance from me just in case I was going to try out my aerial act and include him once again.

One thing I do love about living in California is that you can live where there is snow, or you can live where there is not. I choose not. For many years I dealt with snow tires, frozen windshields, slippery sidewalks and frigid temperatures. Getting too old to do that again. So I will enjoy the glorious fall colors available to me in my area and be happy to do so. Rain is in the forecast and I’m looking most forward to seeing drops on the window.

Interesting, not sure that’s the correct word, all that is going on in our country right now. Trying to rise above the noise and find some peace and contentment in this atmosphere stirring around us isn’t always easy. Hmmmm maybe that camping trip is a good idea. Not.

Enjoy your day. Quiet the noise and breathe deeply the crisp fall air.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Last night I packed a bag and went to the sleep center for a sleep study. According to my doctor, the results of the original in-home test I had taken a while back revealed my oxygen level dropping below normal levels for an extended period of time while I slept. This, it seems, is not a good thing.

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The staff at the center where I checked in for the evening were very accommodating. We “sleepers” were asked all the usual COVID related questions, then taken in one at a time from the parking lot to our rooms to await being hooked up to our monitoring equipment. Once fully connected, it was back to our rooms to enjoy a little cable TV or read until lights out where the actual observation begins. Amazingly, with electrodes attached to everything including my fingertips, I managed to log about seven hours sleep which is better than I often accomplish at home. Have to admit the beds were comfortable, and the rooms welcoming, so I didn’t let a little wiring and gear get in the way of some much needed beauty sleep. Opening my eyes around 5 a.m. I was immediately greeted by a voice on the monitor asking if I wanted to be unplugged “Yes, please.” I took a picture for posterity with all the equipment attached, but in the end, it seems even I have my pride, so I’m posting the above gentleman’s instead. On the catch and release program, I was set free at 5:30. My head looked like a Jackson Pollock of goo and hair giving me the look of an extra from Ghostbusters. Driving the half an hour drive home, I was so glad it was pitch dark and I made it home without getting pulled over. It if was illegal to get a ticket for being a hot mess in public, I definitely would have been given a citation.

The results are not in yet, but I have an inkling there is probably a CPAP lurking somewhere in my future. If that’s the worst thing I have to deal with, I will be doing all right. Thankfully, for the most part I am am blessed with good health. My mother, I believe, was kind enough to pass on some of her excellent genes. I’m counting on this as I begin to take a deep dive into my golden years. Even though my engine seems to still be in tip-top shape, and the chassis, though sitting a bit lower than it used to, isn’t too bad for it’s age, a problem or two has been popping up from time to time with the parts. Guess this is to be expected as the vehicle begins to show some significant mileage on it.

The idea of having someone observing me while I slept felt a bit “peep showish” to me. I’m quite sure they don’t staff their facility with lascivious voyeurs, nonetheless, we humans are at our most vulnerable when at rest so it makes you feel a bit exposed. Also, since I’ve never watched myself sleep, I wasn’t sure what new and exciting experiences I might bring to the table while under the spell of Morpheus. I do know when I sleep I am very active. Rick told me I often “breached” in the middle of the night, apparently the reference being a nod to whales. Thank you. This breaching, according to his account of it, involved me levitating my entire body in the air then rotating as one might do if flipping a pancake in a frying pan. Interesting. I’m sure that must have been a treat when he was trying to get some sleep. Also, I am a known cover stealer, rolling myself up in the blankets like a hot dog tucked in a croissant then resisting mightily if asked to give half back. Sorry.

On the flip side of the coin, Rick snored. This is a polite description of the noises he made while sleeping, restraint given only out of love for the man. There were times when I believed he would surely suck the draperies into his lungs, and even was concerned the cat might be in danger of being dragged into the gaping maw should she happen to wander by his open mouth during the night. For those of you who sleep with a loud snorer, you know exactly from whence I speak. What saved us, was I go to bed early and wake up early, where he was a creature of the night and went to bed a couple of hours before I was pouring my first cup of coffee for the day. So each of us only had to put up with the other’s idiosyncrasies for brief periods of time.

In 2002 we traveled to Europe for three weeks. Rick’s mother, Labiba, made her home in Paris for thirty years. While visiting, we stayed with her and ET, her Cairn terrier, in her lovely apartment. Even though she was born in Cairo, Paris held her heart. It was easy to see how she carried on a love affair with the city. While there, we packed in as many of the sights as we could, availing ourselves most days of the excellent public transportation system available in Paris. Driving, I have to say, was a bit stickier. Parisiennes, drive like Bostonians. This is not by way of a compliment. Drivers in both cities propel their vehicles along weaving in and out of lanes with their middle fingers up and their mouths set on rapid fire. In Boston, crossing the street always reminded me of those arcade games where the ducks moved along a conveyor belt while a customer tried to knock them down. Drivers in Boston follow much the same policy. The moment a pedestrian places a foot in the crosswalk, a green dot appears on their forehead and they’re fair game. Behind the wheel there isn’t much better. Once I got stuck in the inside lane of a rotary (they are fond of them) during rush hour when first in the state. I believe I celebrated a birthday before a driver finally left me enough room to move into an outside lane so I could exit on the other side.

After two weeks in Paris and one in London, we reluctantly boarded our plane at Orly Airport for the long trip home. Exhausted and with eight hours air travel before landing in New York, Rick decided to take a nap. The flight attendant suggested he might be more comfortable lying across the very back row of the coach section, as no one had purchased tickets to those seats. I remained in our assigned seats several rows up over the wing in the middle of the plane. Rick settled himself in. Before long the dulcet tones of his snoring rose above the typical sounds one would expect in an airline cabin to such an extent people began craning their necks or kneeling on their seats to see who had allowed a flock of Canada geese to board the plane. After sleeping for about an hour, he awoke refreshed to hear the entire group of coach passengers clapping in unison that his eyes were at last open and his mouth shut. Cringe. On arriving home, he set up an appointment with his doctor and after a sleep test a CPap was ordered. Peace once again descended over our humble home.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if we unveiled all our little secrets and personality quirks during our first dates? Most probably this would result in the world population diminishing by half. If we achieved the same comfortability with our bodily noises and functions that we have after being together for a long time during our initial meetings, there might never be a second meeting for any perspective couple. Better, I say, to ease into these little nuances of personality over a period of time rather than pour the whole can of wriggly worms out on the table and scare a possible bite away from the bait.

My mind turns to dating and personality quirks because I have been casually seeing a man I met in my grief group. It’s been over two years since Rick passed away. The last thing I was interested in was developing a new relationship, yet here I am doing exactly that. I’m not wading into deep water any time soon, but rather doing more of a gentle toe tapping on the surface to see what the temperature feels like. You can’t just go out and find another person and neatly slip him or her into the slot left empty by a loved one dying. However, you can create a new and different slot with unique edges and dimensions for a new person to insert themselves in.

As always, I am open to whatever life brings along, even though I may not necessarily continue in that direction once I’ve taken a long look at it. However, hopefully, I will always be curious enough and adventurous enough to explore the options presented to me, or better yet, create my own new options to explore.

As the days pass and we get to know each other, we sort of peel back the layers of the onion and look at what the next layer brings. When you have lived alone for awhile and are moving along the age chart, I think you become more “set” in your ways. For me, having someone who was messy wouldn’t sit well with me, nor a person who shares little common interests with me. With the political world becoming so contentious, I would prefer to get to know a man with like political affiliations or at least one willing to look at both sides of the coin and engage in an open discussion about the differences. Most people older than thirty are likely carrying some baggage along with them. My life, for example, is populated with children and grandchildren, friends, and activities. Whoever decides to walk along side of me, should anyone do so, would have to embrace these loved ones or at the very least be pleasant to them and that would hold the same for me.

For some people their exes would still be lingering on the periphery as well. This true particularly if they had children together, though in my case this it is not as my first husband has been gone a long time. As long as I don’t have to have the exes over for dinner every Sunday, or they don’t feel the need to remind me incessantly who had possession of the gentlemen in question first, I am totally fine to accept whoever comes along with the package.

As always life is interesting. This year it is beyond interesting being more along the lines of perplexing, difficult, unruly and a host of other adjectives that would still leave the description wanting. Just hard to get around everything going on in our world. I work at keeping my chin up, as well as my spirits. Every day I connect with friends, take a walk, look up something new and try to learn from it, keep pumping up my joy wherever I can.

Have a great Thursday. Stay safe.

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Saturday I went to visit my mom as usual. Due to the continuing Covid concerns, we (my daughter and I) are not allowed in the facility, so we sit in the garden beyond her window and visit her through the screen. It’s not optimum, but it’s better than not seeing her, and FaceTime is largely unsuccessful when dealing with someone who has dementia issues. Sooooo, the garden it shall be. When getting in my car to leave, I felt a sharp pain just above the bend in my knee at the back of my leg. Looking down a wasp had deposited it’s stinger in my skin and was preparing to go in for a second attempt. Not so fast. Why do they love me? Was I a large honey stealing bear in a former life? There could be twenty people standing in the garden and the little buggers would find my exposed skin the most irresistible. Once we realized what had happened everyone stood staring at me. What? It seemed they were waiting to see if I was going to drop to the ground and begin writhing or start foaming at the mouth. Ahhhhh. Truth be known, I haven’t been stung for about twenty-five years so either reaction could have been forthcoming. Thankfully, all that resulted was a big bump and oooooooh, such itching. Sigh.

The last time I was stung was in West Virginia. Our dryer had gone south (not on a bus tour, but actually to the dump). While waiting for my new one to arrive, and out of underwear, I was forced to visit the laundromat down the block. Let me preface by saying, I don’t like laundromats. Sitting and watching the clothes circulate in the dryer affords me no kind of pleasure whatsoever and the combined aromas of sweat, bleach, and laundry detergent never does my sinuses any favors. At any rate, desperate times call for desperate measures, so I deposited my money in the slots, added my detergent, and sat down in a chair by the window to read my book until the cycles were completed. I never leave unattended clothes in the washer or the dryer because I have not had good luck with that practice.

When I married my first husband I was eighteen. Aside from brushing my own teeth and dressing myself, I had little life experience about what it takes to run a household. My thinking never got beyond the wedding ceremony, so when it came to actually living together I hadn’t a clue. My cooking skills were limited to putting butter on toast and pouring cereal in a bowl and I had never been involved with laundry beyond folding a pile placed in front of me by mother to fold. Note here, when I had children of my own I taught them early on how to fend for themselves so this pattern would not be repeated by the next generation. The first time I had to do laundry was in the laundry room at the apartment house we lived in. Having no incite as to the fine points of washing clothes, I loaded the washing machine to the brim including a red bedspread and all my husband’s white tee shirts and underwear. Adding a liberal amount of Tide, I pushed hot wash and we were off to the races. No one could have been more surprised then me to find when I went to put the massive load in the dryer the underwear now matched the bedspread except for in a lighter shade of pink. Whoops.

Next, I had decided to go to the laundromat down the street. They had more machines so it was easier to do multiple loads. I put all my husband’s clothes in the washers, and when washed, I transferred them to a bank of large dryers. Knowing I had at least a half an hour before I could retrieve them, I decided to run a couple of errands. When I returned, all four dryers were completely empty and one had a note stuck to it with a piece of chewing gum that read “thanks”. You’re welcome. Ach. Every one of my husband’s dress shirts for work but the one he was wearing had been taken. He asked me when I told him if I had some sort of personal vendetta against his wardrobe. Sorry.

So, by the time I found myself in the laundromat in West Virginia I had raised two children and grown up a piece myself. I knew to wait for your clothes to get done before leaving or you were liable to see your favorite shirt on someone in the check out line at the local Piggly Wiggly. That day as I said, I was sitting by the window. There was one other person in the entire laundromat, a man reading a newspaper. He looked to be about forty something, with glasses, and was studying the page in front of him intently when a bee dropped down the back of my shirt. Now, I have said repeatedly I don’t like bees. Let me repeat, I really don’t like them. Please don’t tell me if I stand still they won’t sting me because it doesn’t matter what posture I adopt if one gets around me he’s going to at least take a shot. This one dropped down the back of my shirt, took aim, and stung me right in the shoulder blade. Well, my body immediately sprang into protective mode. I began to dance around the area I was sitting like I was auditioning for “So You Think You Can Dance”. Aside from the fancy footwork, my hands were swatting about my back, and my neck was craned in a unnatural position trying to see behind me. This guy lowered his chin and looked up over the page of his newspaper but never flinched. I nearly stripped the shirt off my body before the offending insect finally fell out on the floor where I jumped up and down and stomped on it repeatedly with my foot. The man neatly folded his paper, stood up, and walked out of the door and never looked back. I’m sure he went home and told his wife, “and so there was this crazy woman in the laundromat who did some sort of strip tease in the corner”. My shoulder swelled up alarmingly. I could have gone for a second audition for the lead in the Hunchback of Notre Dame and would have been a shoe in for the role of Quasimodo.

So today is laundry day once again. It also marks two years since Rick passed away. Where did 730 days disappear to? Time seems to be roaring past my eyes these days. How much life has changed during that time. Looking at it I can see glimpses of the old in my surroundings and in myself, but certainly it looks and feels different then it did two years ago. In the beginning I didn’t think I could manage another day and yet here I am 729 days later and still my feet are moving forward. I shall think of him today. The tears have dried up for the most part but the days of melancholy still show up from time to time. Always he will be a part of me but I have been left behind so must build a life for myself as best I can and find my way.

Tonight is the first Presidential debate. Such a divided country as we tune in to root for our side. Strange times these. Sometimes I watch from the sidelines and wonder what an earth we are doing. Faith keeps me believing we will find the light to guide us in the right direction but right now I can’t see the end of the tunnel. This most probably will be one of the most important elections in our history. It feels to me like our country is on the line. Let’s hope we choose wisely.

Have a productive and well used day. They do go by quickly. Laundry day for me and I’m armed and dangerous (detergent and dryer sheets only).

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I believe I might be described as an “A” personality. My friends are always telling me I move like the wind when trying to get something accomplished. I always feel a sense of urgency for some reason, as though I am racing against the clock. Not exactly sure why this is, but I do know it is a feeling I experience often when planning out my day. So much to do, so little time to do it in.

Lately it seems a lot of people are busy. Interesting phenomenon, considering we’re supposed to be sticking around the house watching the grass grow due to the corona virus as well as the putrid air that has prevailed of late here in Northern California due to the fires. What are we doing that creates all this busyness? I know what I’m doing, just curious what the rest of the population is up to. Thankfully, I am rarely bored. I can always find something to do with myself if left with surplus time on my hands. Aside from a myriad of hobbies I enjoy, I get a certain rush from cleaning house (I know, and no I cannot drive to your house and clean yours.), love to cook (most days), and am an avid reader. If all else fails, I can plop myself down on the couch and watch something on Netflix that catches my eye. Sometimes I find it fascinating out of the hundreds of movies I have available to me at my fingertips, I can search for an hour and not seem to find one that makes me want to push watch. Hmmmm.

This week for the first time in weeks today the air is actually less toxic than incapable of sustaining life. Send up the balloons, alert the media!! I believe I can step out my front door and inhale as well as exhale, maybe even take a walk. Stop it. I know. From what I understand, Portland was actually entertaining the worst air quality on the planet a while back. Hard to imagine it that way. Such a beautiful area. I lived for a year in Longview, Washington, a stone’s throw from the Oregon border and about an hours drive to Portland. Often my ex-husband and I shopped in the Portland area. Oregon doesn’t have sales tax, so we always saved a bit at the register while enjoying the gorgeous surroundings in the process.

Though we loved Oregon, Washington state also has much to offer, particularly for the avid outdoors man such as my ex-husband. Verdant forests, prolific waterways perfect for hooking a bass, trout, or crappie, and excellent hunting for those who lean in that direction. I do not. Hunting will never be my bag (if you’ll pardon the pun). An animal lover from my lilac toenails to my unnaturally blonde hair, killing an animal even to cull the herd would be difficult for me to do unless it was mortally injured and in pain. As I’ve said in previous blogs, if I kill ants on my kitchen counter, I send a letter of condolence to the family.

While living in Longview David and I spent most of our days off exploring the gorgeous Southern Washington area. He was a Texan, born and raised. Well, raised at least. Though actually born in Arkansas, his family migrated to Odessa, Texas where he and grew up hunting, fishing, and riding. I’ve always loved communing with nature, but before moving to Washington I’d had little experience baiting a hook. My parents were inside people, though my stepfather loved to garden. For a man who had little use for most of humanity, when working in his garden his touch was gentle, his knowledge vast, and the result of his cultivation skills often breathtaking. Mother simply was not bred for the outdoors. As I’ve mentioned before most of my mother’s people are of English descent with delicate pale peach skin prone to bursting into flames if exposed to extended sunlight. I must have picked up some olive tones from my dad’s side of the pond because though still light in complexion, I’ve always been able to add a nice coating of bronze over the summer months. These days I stay out of the sun as far as “lying out” to promote a tan. Ignorance was bliss when I was growing up so we slathered on the baby lotion and cooked to a golden brown like a Christmas turkey on the beach. My dermatologist is reaping the rewards of all that sun worshiping today.

While living in Washington, Silver Lake was our favorite place to cast a line. According to my ex, early morning hours were the prime time to catch fish. With that in mind, we were often on the lake before the sun rose above the horizon. I never argued the point, having not one single insight into fish and their personal preferences as to when to be hooked. Often when sitting in the boat on these early mornings we would share tidbits about our lives. These conversations were held on the down low so as not to disturb the fish circling the hooks below. This, also a tip from the David. Odessa, I was to learn, was considered one of the most dangerous towns in the nation. The city held the dubious title of one of ten “murder capitals of Texas”. Whether or not Arkansas was written on his birth certificate David was a Texan from the top of his Stetson hat to the bottom of his Lucchese cowboy boots. Men who hailed from those parts were familiar with taking care of themselves, he told me. As I recall David’s mother once said if they couldn’t find him when a youngster they looked for a ring of boys surrounding a mound of dust and David would be somewhere in the middle either beating the tar out of someone or having the tar beaten out of him. These rough beginnings left a lot of jagged edges to be whittled off when carried into adulthood. Some got whittled down, while others, well, that’s another story.

Silver Lake was within driving distance of Mt. St. Helens. Even though the catastrophic erruption had occurred a decade or more before we arrived in the state the evidence was still clearly visible. Everywhere you looked there were trees strewn across the ground or just jagged stumps. Eerie to see and unimaginable to be involved in. Nature surely can pack a powerful punch as is evidenced in everything we see of late. Certainly for people in California and the Gulf Coast the absolute power it can exert over us has been very evident this year.

While in the area we visited the Vistors Center (hence the name). I got a pair of sculpted bears made out of the ash to take home with me. We hiked all around the area and were left in awe of the magnitude of the damage.

Often while in the state we went out into the woods to explore for a day. David was well versed on living on the land. I remember while living in Arkansas he would bring home huge catfish and skin and filet them as if it was a walk in the park. After watching him on multiple occasions, I asked if I could try it. After about two hours I had whittled a six pound fish down to enough edible meat for Kitty (our resident feline at the time) to make a meal out of.

For me, being a city person, it was fascinating to be around someone so well versed in the ways of the woods and the country. I always felt in an emergency if I was with him I wouldn’t have to worry about surviving.

Lately, when we’re told every week to be prepared to leave our houses at a moment’s notice, I leave a bag packed with important papers and essentials, and keep the cat crate close by to carry Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, should we need to make our exit in a hurry.

You can’t live your life in fear. It will be as it is destined to be, or so I believe. However, you can be prepared and that is what I intend to be. Other than that it is a particularly gorgeous Monday morning, my coffee is hot and sweet, and I am prepared to greet my day. Have a great one!

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Yesterday was officially the first day of fall. If you could see me, you would know I am doing my “happy dance” to welcome autumn. This, to understate the obvious, has been a most difficult year. Not to presume to speak for you, I would guess I wouldn’t get a lot of argument on that statement.

Another rough spot, today my daughter let me know their golden lab, Pita, had to be put down. Pita was getting on in years and like many of her breed, her hips were beginning to fail. Though I believe it was time for her to go, I will miss her smiling face and irrepressible optimism when visiting from now on. To add to the sadness she was was my second oldest grandchild’s best buddy and constant companion. Pita and Payton were as joined at the hip as Abbott and Costello or Lucy and Desi. To see one without the other will be hard to imagine.

A lot of goodbyes have been said this year. If you are a person of faith, certainly the truest definition of faith has been tested for many, “trusting in something you cannot explicitly prove”. There are so many half truths and unconfirmed statements floating around in the air with the political spotlight pointed at the upcoming election, it is enough to make your head spin. Wear masks, don’t wear masks, the pandemic is nearly over, it’s just beginning. Sometimes I think I will stop watching the news and other times I simply can’t turn it off. Sigh.

A lot of people I regularly speak to on the phone are sounding decidedly irregular these days. I totally get that. Everyone reacts differently to stress. For me I usually lose weight, while others will begin slamming down eclairs like tomorrow isn’t coming. Some people drink or kick their dog. I have vivid dreams and wake up five times at night. You can look at me and easily determine my stress level. If my life is running along like a well tuned engine, my cheeks are full (on both ends), my eyes shiny, and my hair lush. In times where life is pressing heavily on my soul, my legs will begin to look like two straight pins holding up a peanut, my eyes become lacklustre and my hair is hanging on by a strand. Just the way my body works. Funny isn’t it how we are all the same, while at the same turn all so very different.

Being different comes with it’s penalties. If you look different in particular people can be unkind. Bullying is a subject that really gets the hair on my arms standing on end and it seems to be on the move. There’s something about purposely going after another person with the intent of hurting them out of pure meanness that gets my Irish up. Well, full disclosure, as far as I know I don’t contain a drop of Irish blood, but you get the idea.

I was bullied off and on as a child. Though a thin adult, I was a plump kid. My grandmother, probably ninety-eight pounds on her heaviest day, was a fabulous cook. Growing up under her roof I didn’t have a prayer. Brightly colored tins lined the shelves of both pantries filled with delicate cookies and chewy and delicious fruit filled bars. Up until the age of five my body resisted the caloric onslaught, but between five and eleven it grew equally horizontally as it did vertically. I remember being in the school play in first grade. I was to be a candy cane among a line of candy canes. My grandmother sewed my costume as instructed by the pattern sent home by my teacher, and the night of the Christmas pageant she pulled it on over my clothes to get me ready for my big moment. Unfortunately, being around the holidays, I had consumed enough chocolate and turkey dinner to make the seams tightly bulge at the candy cane’s sides. No time to let the seams out, I was guided to the side of the stage and made my entrance in the front row with the other canes in my group. All went without incident until we bent at the waist to do our bows after a rather, if I do say so myself, “sweet” performance and my seams gave way no longer able to hold back the tide. With a loud rip, the butt end of my costume relieved the pressure allowing the flesh pushing against it to gratefully escape. This precipitated hysterical laughter on down the line and my face turned as red as the stripes circling my body. I always remember that moment. It marked my first experience with humiliation. The first realization I was somehow different because I was overweight.

Not only was I chubby, but I had a lazy eye which required I wear glasses. God, I hated those glasses. Each day I walked to school up Ogilvie Street and down Tower Road. On Tower Road I crossed a bridge which spanned the massive railroad yard housed below. Always I was fascinated as the trains maneuvered back and forth adding cars to their loads, or leaving cars behind. Often I would stop for a moment to watch what seemed to me the sort of rhythmic metal dance. One day after being teased about having “four eyes” I stopped to glance over the side. Watching a train approach on a track I wondered what might happen to my much despised glasses if they “accidentally” fell on that track before the train passed. Before I knew it the glasses were floating through the air bouncing several times before landing square on the track just as the engine chugged along over them. “Hasta la vista, Baby”. At six you don’t think about the consequences of your actions. Well, at least not immediately. As I turned onto Ogilvie Street and began down the hill the immensity of my actions suddenly dropped over me like a heavy tarp. Without a doubt my mother and my grandparents were not going to revel in my genius for finding a sudden and painful end to the glasses they had just purchased for me. By the time I got home the tears had already begun to flow and by the time I reached the door to the kitchen I was in full gusher mode. My poor grandmother, having no idea what had befallen me between school and home, was trying to make sense out of my blatherings in order to determine what was wrong. Though I’d only had one spanking in my life, I was sure another one was about to be added to my record. Finally calming down to explain the dastardly deed I had done she asked me why. “Why on earth would you do such a thing”? Lower lip still flapping in the wind, I told her I was being teased. “Ahhhhhh” she said, hugging me tightly. No spanking was ever inflicted, and a new pair of glasses had to be ordered which I was instructed NOT to drop over the overpass. I remember my grandmother telling me I musn’t be influenced by mean spirited people for they would always be part of my life. Instead I was to remember I was well loved and safe and that they could only invade my world if I opened the door. Another lesson I took with me in my lesson bag.

There is plenty of mean spiritedness to go around these days. It’s everywhere. For me, I’m trying to hold on to the kindnesses I see, the generosity of spirit, and the love also in ample supply. The other day there was a homeless man with a sign standing by the exit to our market. You are probably saying all the usual things people do when seeing such a person asking for a handout. “They make tons of money doing this. They’ll use the money for drugs or alcohol. There are jobs if they just go and apply for them.” I’ve probably said some of these myself but this man somehow was different. He was elderly to begin with and dressed very poorly. Rail thin his hands actually looked skeletal. His beard reached almost to the waist of his pants and when he moved his arms they shook. No matter what this man’s story was, it was patently obvious he wasn’t doing well. There were ten cars in line waiting for the light to change. Without fail each car stopped and a hand reached out the window with a donation in it. This, made me really happy to see. When I handed him mine his eyes were wet. Sometimes just a little jesture, an acknowledgement, that random act of kindness. It may seem small to you but might mean the world to someone else.

So, I’m not that chubby little girl any more but she is an integral part of me. I remember to love her too, like my grandmother did. Whether you are chubby, or short, or imperfect in any way, don’t let others diminish you. Remember people who need to make someone else feel less than, usually come from a place of feeling less than themselves.

I say this on a rather contentious day. It’s a rough world out there lately. But in my day today the skies were robin’s egg blue with white puffy clouds, and the air was clear and fresh. I worked in the yard and took a moment to be immensely grateful. Sometimes the moment is all you have to be grateful for, and sometimes that is enough.

Have a happy Friday!!

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Today is Rick’s birthday. The 29th of this month will also mark the day he passed away two years ago. For those of you who have lost a spouse you will understand these special days come with a price. Grief is a process most of us will have to face one time or another in our lives. To me it is similar to sustaining an open wound. In the beginning, you are flayed and raw. Then, as the healing process begins, the pain recedes as each day passes until you are left with a barely perceptible scar. Though others may not be aware it is there, you will still touch and feel it from time to time remembering where you got it.

Life has changed significantly since then for me. In the beginning I was like a newborn fawn. I struggled to my feet on wobbly legs, unsure if I could walk. The human spirit is enduring, and eventually I found my footing and resumed my path in the forest still not sure where I was going, but knowing I would continue my journey. These days I have created a new me of sorts, you don’t remain the same. Grief restructures you, adding dimension in some parts, while removing it in others. As you change, you find new parts of you yet unexplored, strong and resilient parts, while sloughing off those no longer serving you.

There are days when I feel the emptiness, but those are less and less. This does not mean I don’t still feel his loss, for I do. I am simply no longer immobilized by it. If anything, I have learned to embrace it along with the memories and love and pain accompanying it. The loss has assimilated into the whole of me, allowing me to smile when a pleasant memory comes up or laugh when remembering a silly moment we shared.

In a way I am glad he is not here to go through what is going on outside the door of late. To be gravely ill and deal with the pandemic and the fires might have been too much for one plate. I feel for people going through that now, some alone with no one to reach out to. Makes me wish I had a bank full of money. Not that money makes everything better, it does not. If it did, there wouldn’t be so many unhappy people who’s pockets are lined with it, but it does provide an avenue for making things happen.

So today I shall remember Rick as I knew him. He was my Egyptian prince, my friend, my love, who though far from perfect as he would often say, was somehow perfect for me. Rick suffered with a lot of demons, but I saw past them to the person behind them and understood why they were there. With me he was genuine and caring. He was intelligent to a fault, and well studied. Always he brought interesting subjects to the table and taught me much about the structure of the world I missed while sleeping through geography class. We enjoyed nearly twenty years together. It is easy when you lose someone to canonize them. I will not do that. He wouldn’t like it, and neither would I. When I pass, I hope people will remember me as I am, not how they wish I would have been.

Looking back as I have said often, goodbyes have been frequent in my life. Being left behind is often an uphill struggle, but if you keep walking uphill eventually you will rise above the clouds to find blue sky and sunshine. Each day offers something interesting to explore, someone interesting to meet, or somewhere interesting to go. When one door closes, I am here to say eventually another door opens. For me I am too curious a being not to want to find out what lurks behind the next door. Keeping positive with all the negative swirling around our heads of late is definitely a challenge. Some days I feel the anxiety closing in on me. When it does, I lean heavily on my reserve of positive thoughts and uplifting reading material to help buoy my spirits. Even if I don’t always win the battle, at least I can say I put up the good fight.

So here I stand after nearly two years firmly planted on both feet again. I don’t want to waste a minute of my time left on this earth filled with guilt, sadness, anger or regret. Instead, I will try to make the best of my allotted minutes, doing something productive that matters if to no one other than myself. The Grand Canyon still calls my name and the Butterflies in Arizona. I am definitely getting there when the getting is again good. I still have Greece penciled in on my bucket list though the writing gets a little paler with each passing year. Zip lining is in my plans as well for next year. Have a lot to do when this gunky sky lifts and the bug is conquered or at least suppressed so no time to waste. As the indomitable White Rabbit might say:

Before going to bed I always told Rick, “Hasta Manana”, so I’m saying it once again to you Rick on your birthday. The Forty-Niners are playing on Sunday, Ducky, be sure to check in. Have a good one. I love you.

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Every third Friday, give or take, my cousin in British Columbia and I spend about an hour on phone catching up on what’s happening in our lives. Though we have never actually met in person, it is uncanny the similarities we find in each other which must have come with our DNA. Her dad was my father’s older brother. I never knew my dad. He knew me, but only for the first year of my life. At twenty-five he died from asphyxiation leaving my mother a young widow with me to raise. This is something my mother never really got over, I believe, as he (according to her) was the love of his life.


I know little really about my father’s family. The players are fairly clear to me, at least the cast that was in place when I arrived on the scene. There were four brothers and one sister. Originally, there had been five boys, but the youngest died of a ruptured appendix at the age of four. I remember my paternal grandmother well, but never knew my grandfather who died of a brain tumor at forty. Each of the children had offspring who, in turn, had children of their own. I would need a playbill to keep track of all the names involved now and would recognize few of the faces. The history of that side of my family comes to me in dribs and drabs. What I have gleaned has been interesting so I hope to continue to fill in the gaps as I get to know them better.

On my mother’s side my cousin, mother’s oldest sister’s eldest, Mary Louise, married Howard. Howard, has a keen interest in genealogy. Some years ago he devoted a sizable amount of time delving into my mother’s people, tracing them back as far as the paper trail would allow. Fascinating to follow the chain of events leading up to the time I decided to pop in and say hello. According to the records our clan even shared some blood with Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church. None of us are Mormon in this generation, as far as I know, but interesting nonetheless. Years back I read “The Twenty-Seventh Wife”, the story of Brigham Young’s twenty-seventh wife, Ann Eliza Webb. Ann Eliza was to be one of fifty-five wives Young took as his own, and later in her life became a strong critic of polygamy and a staunch supporter of women’s rights. I would have been right there marching next to her when it came to polygamy. One mate is enough of a challenge, but multiple, no way.

In some ways we’re all related. “The Brotherhood of Man”, is perhaps a good way to put it, though women seem excluded from that phrase. This is not new news to those of us of the gentler sex. Wouldn’t be the first time we didn’t get top billing to our male counterparts and won’t be the last I’m sure. A single seed populated the world or however you view it. Truth is no matter what your beliefs we had to start somewhere. We didn’t just all appear in unison and begin reproducing. Ah well, heavy thoughts for a Thursday. When I start getting deep into philosophy my mind takes off on so many side roads I can’t keep up with it.

Fires certainly are the talk everywhere in California, and the extreme weather across the country for that matter. Really it is the entire west coast that is burning not only us. Day before yesterday the sky got so incredibly dark early afternoon we had to turn lights on. People in the Bay Area woke up to dark orange skies yesterday and what a friend described as apocalyptical landscapes such as have never been seen before. I texted a friend and said, “should an alien spacecraft land in the middle of my street, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least”. She replied, “me too”. We’re like an over loved martini, both shaken and stirred. Many friends in my old neighborhood in Oroville, California are biding their time with families or at local motels waiting for the firestorm to pass and to get the signal from the fire department they can return to whatever might be waiting for them at home. Wow. If I could so you could see it, I would bring my hands next to my head and signal “mind blown”.

To explain how it feels to wake up with this uncertainty every day, I would liken it to what I imagine people living in war torn countries must experience. Sitting in their homes each day waiting for another bomb to fall and desecrate their neighborhoods or steal a loved one from them. I know for me I’m edgy and not sleeping well. I have several friends in Grass Valley where I moved from two years ago, who just got their power restored after two days without energy. One lady is in her eighties, lives alone, and just lost a son to cancer. I offered to come get her or for her to come here but she chose to stay in her home. She called yesterday to say she wished she’d accepted my offer. Sitting there in the dark, alone, wondering if her street would be next to fall turned out to be a lot to manage. The strain, even if you’re tough like she is, takes it toll when applied liberally day after day.

People in states like Colorado are going up and down the thermometer like a thrill ride at the local amusement park. One day it is sizzling and the next snowing. Bizarre, and more bizarre. Check please.

Yesterday I had an appointment at the ENT’s office for a sinus exam. I arrived at the appointed time and after providing the usual information to the receptionist was asked to wait in the deserted waiting room. K. About an hour later still sitting by myself the nurse came and got me. Well, full disclosure, there was a fish tank and by the time my name was called the angel fish and I were on a first name basis. Apologizing for the long wait, the nurse showed me to an exam room. It seemed the power had been out causing confusion in the office. They were trying to get back on the horse but the horse wasn’t cooperating. After providing more detailed information about my sinus situation, she left me to wait for the doctor. Twenty minutes later he arrived wearing both a mask and a face shield. Again he apologized for keeping me waiting. I said, “no problem”. Truth was it was becoming a bit of a problem because it was getting close to feeding time at my house. The natives in my digestive system were beginning to get restless and I had begun to create unique recipes using cotton balls and antibacterial jelly.

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After doing an exam with the tools on the tray next to him, he announced he was going to scope me. Oh-oh. Didn’t like the sound of that. I’ve never been scoped anywhere on my body that left me wanting to sign up to have it done again. Leaving the room, he reappeared shortly with the instrument of torture. Mama. It looked like something you’d blow up an inner tube with. Pulling on headpiece with a light attached he sat on the stool. Just as he was about to look into my nether regions, the lights went out in the room. “Thank you”, I whispered quietly. Apologizing once more, he said we would have to pass on the scoping for the day. I tried to look disappointed, but even I don’t have the acting chops to make that believable. He then said, “God, I hate this year. This has been the worst year ever, hasn’t it?” I think he realized at that point perhaps this wasn’t the most professional conversation to be having with a new patient so he quickly put his doctor face back on. “I hear ya, Doc”, I wanted to say. “Sucks to be us right now and I’m sure it sucks to be a physician”. I had to fight the urge to give the man a hug. Can’t hug these days either for several reasons. One, you could either get the virus or transmit it and two, you could get sued for sexual harassment. Ah well, I sent him a spiritual hug. Think that’s still okay. If not please don’t let me in on it.

So, with several prescriptions to add to my repertoire we parted. I walked down the long dark hall of the second floor of the building and found myself remembering when life was normal. Sigh. I began to hum as I walked out into the smoky courtyard. You have to remember to sing in the lifeboat, or so they say.

Almost Friday. Next week a clean piece of paper. Stay safe.


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