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Last night was one of those stress filled nights where I found myself doing yoga at 2 a.m. in an effort to calm my chattering brain. Lately I invest a lot of energy trying to live in the moment I am currently inhabiting. In spite of my finest efforts, now and again my mind goes rogue bombarding me with what if’s and unsettling scenarios for the future. During these episodes like Michelangelo on steroids, my psyche begins frantically painting scenes of Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, and I sitting on the street corner with a sign reading “Need Help” or me ending up in some sort of group establishment known for its abysmal food cohabited by people wiling away their hours plucking imaginary berries out of the air.  None of this is based on any fact, mind you, but in the wee hours when darkness is upon me my thoughts can play tricks on my intellectual properties allowing doubt and misinformation to cloud all rational thinking processes.

Fear truly can rule you if you allow it run unchecked. Reality is sufficiently frightening without giving fear free rein to step up and fabricate things for you to worry about. Feelings and thoughts are just that, feelings and thoughts. They are not tangible entities but rather fluid malleable parts of us we can bring to the forefront or make disappear at whim. You are at the controls, sort of like when parents tell their offspring, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out”.

Fear is not new to me. Truth is I’ve done a lot of things in my life that have terrified me. Sometimes you have to stare down your fears and kick them to the curb. At one point I actually suffered from anxiety attacks while married to my ex-husband, David. Now to be clear, I am not for a minute suggesting my ex caused these attacks to occur (I’m also not suggesting he didn’t), simply stating they manifested themselves when I was married to the man. They began at the onset of our ten years together. Much of our time was spent traveling across the U.S. working for a large, very well recognized, construction company. Like hermit crabs we transported our home with us setting up camp in each new location as one job closed and a new opportunity presented itself. The first move, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, was to Washington state. More specifically, Longview, Washington. We worked and lived there for eleven months before packing up after accepting the next job offer which was to be in Ashdown, Arkansas. Our household goods at the time were stored in the Bay Area. Not contemplating returning for some time we decided to drive to the San Jose area, spend a week with my family there, load up his truck and my car with the contents of our storage unit and make a beeline for Arkansas. Along for the ride were my Shih Tzu, Sushi and Kitty, my twelve year old gray tabby. At the end of our journey together these two animals had logged enough miles to be honorary long-haul drivers.

We set out on that trip each in our respective vehicles. These were what I call the “lean years” for us. His beater Ford truck was nearly as old as I was and my car at the time was a K car purchased at auction. A comfortable car for driving, the outside no longer matched the well preserved interior as a result of an unfortunate rear ender I’d been involved with prior to leaving for Washington. In an effort to keep the repair costs down, as it wasn’t a new vehicle either by any means, the body shop had actually riveted the hood back together leaving it sporting a somewhat Frankensteinish appearance. I know.  Between the rivets on my hood and my husbands severely overtaxed truck bed the characters in Grapes of Wrath had nothing on us. Both animals rode with me. Sushi generally occupied the shotgun seat with Kitty preferring to ride in the area below the window above the rear seat where she could catch some sun. Cats, unlike their canine counterparts, do not signal when they need to relieve themselves, so it was necessary to have the litter box on board on the floor in the back seat. This, as you might imagine, was not always a delightful addition to my trip.

There were so many scary parts to that trip I hardly know where to begin. At the time I was madly in love and off on a new adventure. “Damn the torpedoes full speed ahead” sort of thing. My car had been having brake problems, something we had decided to address on our arrival in Arkansas. If you are scratching your head at this statement, may I join you? Why on earth we would take a chance on traversing high mountain roads with an old truck loaded to the max with hhg’s and an old car with poor brakes escapes me, but what can I say? Nothing, exactly. Sometimes shaking your head is all you can do.

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We reached the top of the Continental Divide as the sun was getting ready to go down. It was summer, but the temperature was cold enough at that altitude to elicit a shiver when I stepped out of the car.  I had pulled to the side of the road in response to David’s signal he was doing so. After stepping around the side of the truck I realized why. Our second flat tire on the truck was apparent on the right front.  The first one was while going across the Great Salt Flats of Utah, which I will discuss as I continue my journey in upcoming blogs. Perhaps brakes and tires might have been two checks we needed to make on our “Preparing for Trip List” prior to hitting the road. I hear you. I don’t believe it helped that the poor old truck was toting a load on it’s back nearly as tall as it was long, but the why’s of the situation really are a moot point at this writing. Choice A, with no Choice B on the horizon was to change the tire in the darkness with the help of a flashlight which was our only available source of illumination. There were no cell phones back then so if you got in a situation like that in a remote place you either took care of it yourself or stayed until hopefully help showed up. David, always helpful, suggested that aside from holding the flashlight it might be advantageous to keep an eye out for bears or mountain lions. “Really”? Luckily knees knocking together is not a known lure for wild beasts so we got the tire changed before being eaten which was definitely a bonus to my way of thinking.

Once the new tire was in place David lit a cigarette while we discussed going down the other side of the mountain. Since my brakes were not performing at optimum capacity the steep grades could present a bit of a problem should I need to say, stop, at some juncture. Being consumed by a bear was starting to look pretty good to me. The plan, hold your hats here, was that David would go first in the heavy truck. As we wound around the mountain careening through the darkness should my brakes go out I was to ride up onto his bumper and he would bring me to a stop. Valium please.  Make it two. As we crested the mountain in tandem I said a silent prayer we would get to the bottom via the road and slowly stepped on the accelerator.  Several times when we hit substantial grades I was only able to maintain a narrow margin behind the truck’s bumper. Even the dog was sweating. Finally, angels on my shoulder, we miraculously hit level ground with all body parts attached. Life, was they say, is good.

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There was an eclipse that night. We secured a room at a local motel. Interesting place. The owner had taken over an abandoned storage facility and converted it into motel rooms. Probably a great plan in conception but perhaps not so great in execution. The ceilings, for example, were really low. Had David been a couple of inches taller then his six feet he might have had to bend slightly to go from room to room. Also, even without the eclipse the fact there were no windows in our unit made it really dark when we switched off the light. Lying there without the tiniest benefit of illumination in the room I can remember breathing into my diaphragm three or four times in an effort to slow down my still hammering heart before drifting off to sleep. Looking back I have to say, even though my life was chaotic in the best of times it certainly was never boring. I guess that’s a good thing in hindsight.

Somehow I made it through those years. Being afraid and pushing through it probably gave me an edge when dealing with the loss of Rick a year and a half ago and all that has come after it.

Have a great and adventurous weekend!!

 

 

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Several weeks ago I went to my primary care doctor as a follow-up to my annual tests. Included this year in the usual blood work and diagnostics was bone density. As you continue to ripen on the vine, particularly if you lean towards being lean as I do, your bones can begin to lose density. I am familiar with osteoporosis because both my mother and my great-aunt had or in mother’s case have this problem. It would seem the baton has been passed to me. Undoubtedly this means another capsule or tablet in my pill box. Up till now I’ve managed to keep them at a minimum. Let me preface by saying I am not a fan of medications and will choose not to take them if they can be avoided in any way. Rick, when ill, took fifteen pills a day. Half of them were to counteract the side effects of the other half.  One pill deteriorated your kidneys so another had to be added to build them back up. Crazy.

In an effort to explain the condition in terms she apparently felt I would understand the doctor drew a picture with two parallel lines representing the interior of a bone. Inside the lines she added some smiley face and some sad face emojis. Really? I’m surprised she didn’t hand me a box of crayons. Our bones, it seems, are always under a state of construction. If they were not, with time they would become brittle and easily broken. The happy faces make new bone, while the sad faces break the old bone down. Sort of like Osteo-PacMan. Further explanation revealed the original plan for humans was not that we live this long.  Women in pioneer days had a life expectancy of about thirty, dying early in childbirth or from disease.  Nowadays we are kept going much longer thanks to significant strides in the medical field, and our bones are not equipped to keep up with us.  Heavier people have more weight thus applying more pressure to the bone keeping them stronger. Got it, and thank you for the detailed diagram.  The treatment for this, or at least one avenue of treatment, is to get a twice yearly shot to help keep your bones strong combined with taking calcium daily along with Vitamin D.  Check and double check. The shot, she went on, is usually given in the stomach. Not done in the office, I was to be referred to the infusion center. “Oh”, she concluded, “there is one possible side effect. The medication could rot your jaw”. Said quickly, she moved on. I had to stick my finger in my ear and move it around to see if perhaps my ear canal was plugged and had misunderstood. “Wait, what?” Holding my hand up I said, “let’s revisit the jaw rotting portion of the presentation for a moment, shall we”? She explained in rare cases the medication can cause jaw necropathy. Wow, sign me up.

After some deliberation and a little research I showed up at the infusion center for the appointment. The infusion center doesn’t hold great memories for me because this is where chemotherapy is administered. When Rick was sick I spent many an afternoon seated in the chairs provided for visitors so am sadly familiar with the surroundings. Have to say in general they staff these centers with the kindest and most remarkable nurses, and this was no exception. Sitting in the waiting room I eyed the exits in case I felt a sudden need to escape. Shortly a nurse retrieved me before I could make a run for it. Inside there were five men hooked up to IV’s. I was seated in the corner by myself as the procedure was explained to me. Immediately I inquired about the jaw situation. The nurse could not believe the side effect was presented to me in such a way, adding she was surprised I’d shown up at all. As she explained it she had only seen three such occurrences in twenty years. All three were reported by cancer patients (they get double the dose), and the treatment was a round of antibiotics and to stop taking the medication. Your jaw does not rot and fall off on the floor as envisioned. Ahhhhh. Sanity in a crazy world. Though my body parts are not all perfect, I find I have an emotional attachment to each and every one of them. So, I allowed her to shoot me up. Didn’t hurt. Thanked her for what she does and went on my way.

I have begun the calcium regime which I also resist strongly. Swallowing huge tablets or capsules is not a labor of love for me. Couldn’t I just drink a ton of milk? I like milk. Looking on-line I ordered capsules you could open and dissolve in water. Ugh. Made a glutenous chalky mess. Took me a half an hour to get the first of two glasses a day down in between gagging. Blach. Well, that’s not going to work. Sooooo I ordered smaller easy to swallow capsules which arrive today. I’ll try that. What a baby. I know. Sometimes Rick took a handful of what appeared to be horse pills without so much as a glass of water. Momma.

Other than this I am happy to report my vital signs indicate unless I get run over by a garbage truck I’m in darn good shape for the shape I’m in. Yay. Thank you mother for passing on some of those awesome genes you were handed down. Couldn’t have asked for a more precious gift. In the end the most important things in life truly are your health, those you love and those who love you back. The rest of the goodies are just a bonus.

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How lucky I am really hit home with me while in Reno recently. Reno, as one might imagine with any gambling mecca, is a city full of sad stories. There is a huge and very evident homeless population there. People with signs asking for help could be seen standing on nearly every corner. The casinos are also packed with desperate people patting their machines waiting for that next winning jackpot or lucky hand to recoup their paychecks and rekindle their dreams. A glittering town covering up a lot of hard edges. On the first morning there I was up with the roosters as usual. I stood at the window enjoying the radiating heat emanating from the fireplace behind me while nursing my first cup of coffee. The street below, still illuminated by streetlights and a massive blinking casino sign flashing “loosest slots in town”, was empty but for an occasional car cruising by. After a few minutes, a heavily bearded gentleman came into view pushing a shopping cart. The cart was piled to the brim and well above with his belongings making it necessary for him to stop every few feet to readjust his load and take a breath before moving it along. Each time he stopped he would shove his hands in his pockets, do a little two-step, then resume pushing again. Odd.  From my vantage point it appeared the man was wearing two coats. The shorter one was layered atop the longer revealing the second coat hanging down below it’s hem. A plaid hat with pilot flaps was pulled tightly down over his ears. Every part of him was covered except his hands. Looking at the snow laden mountains barely visible in the distance I knew without benefit of gloves his hands must be very cold.  This probably explained shoving them in his pockets before each two-step he performed.  There was a certain catchy cadence to this dance like he was a lone marcher in a military parade. As he continued shuffling on out of sight I got to thinking of the inequities in this world. Why some people have so very much while others struggle with so very little.

There was a two week period in my life back when I was young stupid where I was not only without a place to hang my hat but without funds for a meal or to buy basic necessities. That memory, though short lived, provided me with a brief  glimpse into what it must be like to live on the streets. I was traveling with my boyfriend at the time and we had arrived at a construction jobsite in Washington state where he was to report for work as a pipe fitter. The job, unbeknownst to us as we had no cellphones back then, had been postponed three weeks. Reviewing our assets we had enough money left after the trip from California to eke through one week if extremely frugal. Luckily, or not depending on your point of view, we had a case of Vienna sausage, some packaged processed cheese snacks, a jug of rather bad wine (one must have sustenance), a package of toilet paper and three large containers of drinking water stored in our trunk for emergencies. This, it turned out, was to be our menu for two weeks. Amazingly my system didn’t just shut down entirely in protest. Since then the mere mention of Vienna sausage gets my stomach turning.

We stretched our money through the first week, allowing for enough to be kept aside for a hotel room or two before the job began to clean up and have gas for our car.  The second week we moved our car from one location to the next along the side roads sleeping sprawled uncomfortably across the seats using our jackets for blankets. Fortunately it was late summer so not too hot nor too cold to make matters worse. On our trips about the area we discovered a rest stop providing complimentary coffee and donuts to passing travelers. Each morning like clockwork we showed up at that picnic table. The female ranger dispensing the coffee, though I’m sure familiar with our faces, always treated us kindly as though we hadn’t been day the day before and the day before that. Those little kindnesses tend to remain with you throughout your lifetime defusing the harsher sides of our existence here. We bathed in the streams and prolific waterways in that area, and ate our Vienna sausage under the stars each night washing them down with a good slug of rose to make them more palatable.

The night before the job was to begin we paid for a hotel room in the seedier part of Portland. Prostitutes could be heard through the paper thin walls negotiating deals for the evening with perspective customers. Dying for a hot shower, after looking at the shower stall we decided to pass using the towels instead to cover the bed sleeping on top of them in our clothes. Sometimes “day sleepers” as they are called in the hotel business don’t bother to remove the bedspreads before doing whatever it is they are there to do. Having worked as a hotel maid for a while I am here to tell you all hotels do not as a practice remove and launder the bedspread every time one customer checks out and a new one checks in. Just so you know before making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on top of one or anything else.

The day he started work left me with the car to fend for myself. Longview, Washington where the job was located, is a lumber mill town as evidenced by the ever present rotten egg smell lingering in the air. The city is located at the junction where the Cowlitz River shakes hands with the Columbia. An extraordinary beautiful area to find yourself once you adapt to the aroma, with ample fishing and hunting options for the outdoor enthusiasts. The center of town has a lovely park with plentiful geese and ducks floating about in the ponds. The first two days I spent my time moving from bench to bench chatting up locals and trying to get rid of the remaining Vienna sausage to any feathered friend willing to take one off my hands.

After his second day of work my traveling companion shared the exciting news there was a motel in town catering to construction bums. The proprietors would extend credit to the first paycheck if you didn’t have money to lay down for a room. Yay, and more yay. Immediately we headed over to the address indicated on the card his co-worker had given him. Introducing ourselves after explaining the situation we were soon handed a room key which we were to use for the next nine months. A local church provided us with the most wonderful box of food including peanut butter and jelly and the bread to spread it on. That particular sandwich tasted better to me at the time then a filet mignon smothered in butter and mushrooms. I remember this every time I see someone with their hand out. No matter how they came to be in their situation, hungry is still hungry. Many of us are uncomfortably close to being on the street if you think about it. We cruise from paycheck to paycheck without much of a safety net built in should our jobs or source of income suddenly disappear. People on the street are not always addicted or mentally ill, sometimes they are just regular people who ran out of options. I try to remember that and not look away when they pass by or offer a smile or money for coffee and a donut.

Little acts of kindness always seem to circle back your way. Have a great day!!

 

 

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After watching an interaction between a couple in a restaurant this morning my mind got to thinking about how we argue. Truly the “style” of arguing really does vary from one family or one person to the next.  This couple, for example, were what I call silent punishers. First they disagreed about something obvious to all of us seated at the tables adjacent to theirs. Realizing they had an audience they lapsed into an uncomfortable silent suffering mode which lasted throughout what must have been a really long meal. At one point the female of the pair had looked at the ceiling so long I was concerned her neck would remain permanently locked in the “up” position. This is one of my least favorite forms of punishment for as you might note by the wordiness of my blogs, I am a communicator. If I have done something to irritate you I would far prefer you air it as quickly as possible rather then let it stew at a slow simmer leaving me to guess what it might be that is bothering you. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good game as much as the next guy, but mind reading is not listed under the skills section of my resume.

Most likely these behaviors are learned from our parents. If your parents were prone to loud angry outbursts odds are you might follow their example. I have friends married for some years who seem to enjoy a good lively argument. During the heat of the dispute they might resort to disparaging comments about one another’s families or each other and take shots at each other I would find difficult to absorb. Just when I think this is to be the shot that will be the last straw before all out combat ensues, I find them laughing or talking to each other as if nothing at all had transpired. I think of this as the “pressure cooker” kind of argument. The steam builds up, the top begins to spin around, and then the pressure is released. Seems to work for them.

For me, I don’t like to argue. However, expecting two people to cohabit together under the same roof and get along twenty-four hours a day seems unlikely. The first few years of a relationship in many cases is a “honeymoon period”. Everything is new and fresh. It’s like when you get new car. No one can eat in it, you wash it religiously every weekend, and keep a trash bag handy inside for any debris that might come along. After a few years leaves pile up on the floor boards, someone is writing “Wash Me” in the dust on your back window, and empty McDonald’s bags are tucked in the door pockets. During the honeymoon period children most likely have not entered the picture yet, both parties are still dressing to impress, and physical interactions are still at the peak of the exciting stage. I can remember when I first got married I would set the alarm a half an hour early so I could sneak out of bed and put my makeup on and do my hair before my husband got up for work. That, I guarantee, did not last past the arrival of the first baby.

Some people have civilized arguments where neither party raises their voice. I do not necessarily think you need to raise your voice during an altercation but sometimes when the subject is heated it is easy to find it going up. Once I participated in a couples class focusing on communication. The moderators broke us up into couples each pair facing one another. In each pair one person was given the word “no” and the other “yes”.  They instructed us to begin in what mother’s today might refer to as their inside voice and slowly accelerate until they were yelling while simply repeating the one word assigned to them. Amazing how much quicker my heart began to beat as I went from no to NO. By the end of the exercise I found I was actually angry and had no idea why. The idea, as I’m sure you’ve surmised, is that yelling while in the middle of a disagreement will obviously raise the level of agitation considerably.

Communication whether arguing or simply discussing your feelings is not always easy. I know when I have something to say to someone who’s opinion matters to me that I know might be uncomfortable I dance around it like a jumping spider looking for a mate. Being honest without hurting someone’s feelings is like walking through a minefield in snowshoes. Difficult and quite possibly hurtful. If you are honest with yourself I believe you must also honor the other person by being honest with them.

Also in this communications class they discussed saying the right words with the wrong tone. For instance you ask someone if they’d like to go to the movies. They reply with no enthusiasm whatsoever, “Yes, that would be nice”. They’ve said the right words with the wrong intonation. This, as the receiver of the answer can be very confusing. This doesn’t suggest that you never join a friend or partner in an activity perhaps not your first choice.  Sometimes we bend to do what others enjoy and hopefully they respond in kind. Relationships after all are full of give and take if you’re to make them work. Just if you do sign up for something they want to do, approach it with enthusiasm or be honest and don’t to do it at all. Haven’t you ever taken someone somewhere with you who agreed to go (Obviously you did not drug them and throw them in the trunk if they are standing next to you and if you did that’s a whole other blog.) and the whole time they are there they are looking at their phone or yawning. I know I have. I would prefer they had said no or brought a good attitude with their yes. I’m just sayin.

There’s also non-verbal communication. Shrugging your shoulders, raising an eyebrow, displaying only your middle finger, or rolling your eyes can send a clear message without ever opening your mouth. Rick, when alive, got particularly annoyed with people who rolled their eyes when he was trying to make a point. In my case if you laugh at me when I’m angry it is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. If I was on a three on a gauge running 1-10, it will send me flying up to a six.

Over the weekend I was in Reno. Haven’t been there in years. Hasn’t change much since last I visited. Still a scruffy desert town with a lot of casinos but went with a friend celebrating a birthday and had a blast. He is one of those human beings who has never met a person he didn’t make a friend. When approaching someone to ask a question or interact with them he first always asks their name and then offers his, and in this case mine as well. I have watched many times in amazement as taking this extra step to personalize his exchange seems to open these people up to be more helpful and certainly more friendly.  Several times we had individuals we hadn’t seen before guiding us to restaurants or telling us secrets about where to drop your money in the casino. If you follow horoscopes at all, according to what I read about scorpios, which is my birth sign, we tend to be more guarded and secretive preferring to size people up a bit before going in. Perhaps he is in my life to teach me a little bit more about letting my guard down.

Listening is essential when having a difference of opinion. Just because you may not agree with the what the other person has to say doesn’t mean it’s okay to tune them out until it’s your turn to respond or interrupt because you can’t wait for them to stop talking. What is it Judge Judy is fond of saying, “you have two ears and one mouth for a reason”.

Communication is humans way of bonding but often we do it clumsily or with the wrong intent. With all the missed chances in our world of late to work together and listen as well as talk, talk, talk this would be a great time to find ways to compromise and if not grasp another person’s point of view at least acknowledge their right to have it.

On that note, have a great day. Yes, or no?

 

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Been doing a lot of cooking this week. Usually do this when I need comfort in my life. There’s something therapeutic about being in the kitchen, for me at least. Often I notice myself humming while preparing ingredients for a pot of soup or whisking an omelet to pour in the pan. Could be this comes from growing up in my grandmother’s home where the kitchen truly was the heart of her house. It was a large kitchen, or perhaps I perceived it to be so because I was small, situated towards the rear left hand corner of the building. As well as the main kitchen area there were two pantries one built on either side of the room.  The larger of the two, situated between the kitchen and dining room was used mainly for storage for linens, dishes and serving plates. The other, tucked beyond the kitchen door towards the interior of the house sat at the junction of two sets of stairs. The first, led down to the basement and the second, referred to as the “back stairs”,  rose up to the second floor where my bedroom was located. Easy access for a chubby little girl with an active sweet tooth.  This smaller pantry had three tiers of shelves wrapping around the interior. Each tier was stacked with colorful tins housing all the delicious goodies my grandmother spent her time baking. For a woman who looked as if she hadn’t eaten a decent meal in years, she had a rare talent for throwing together flour, sugar and butter to create the most delicious confections you can imagine. If I close my eyes I can still imagine the buttery goodness of her shortbread melting across my tongue. Yum.

She would often say we ladies are spoiled nowadays. Growing up in her time there weren’t prepared meals to pop in the microwave. There weren’t microwaves to pop them in. Everything was created from scratch. If you wanted bread you made it.  When they got their first refrigerator, replacing the ice box used for cooling up until then, her lady friends would stop by just to sit and admire it. These days much is taken for granted. A switch is flipped and lights go on, the phone accompanies you anywhere you go, and cars instruct you on how to park or actually do the parking for you. It must have been amazing for her to have spanned the progress of nearly all of the twentieth century particularly with the significant advances made during that time.

I’m glad I’m spoiled in some ways. The first time I made bread from scratch the dough was so sticky it adhered to the bread board I was kneading it on.  After much scrubbing to no avail we had to throw the board out and get a new one. Had we had to depend on me for our bread supply I have a feeling there wouldn’t have been a lot of sandwiches made in our house. Once I made a batch of yeast rolls. It took twelve packs of yeast to produce an equal number of rolls, half the number the recipe called for. Rick said had he accidentally dropped one on the floor he was pretty sure it would have continued on through to China no problems. Fine.

Sometimes I wonder why women got tasked with all the good stuff. Child bearing, though a wonderful experience I wouldn’t change a minute of, is not exactly a walk in the park. We are also the ones equipped with the feeding accoutrement once the child has arrived not the males of the species. Many of the household tasks appear to have been assigned to the ladies as well while men got chores like mowing lawns and taking the trash out once a week. Cooking, though many men enjoy being in the kitchen, is often the responsibility of the lady of the house. Looking back I would have happily stayed home and been a housewife, but my life path required me to show up for work every day to keep food on the table.  Cooking wasn’t always the joy for me it is now. When coming home after a long day at work to prepare a healthy meal some days became a job in itself. Lately I find it harder to find my rythm in the kitchen then I used to. After so many years spent scanning recipes in cookbooks, tearing them out of magazines and now sourcing them on-line I simply have run out of the creative energy as to know how to put the choices available into something not the same thing seen on my plate since the 1960’s. Let’s get real how many ways can you dress up Brussels sprouts? If there has been a new way invented most likely I have tried it. Maybe the solution is to produce a new vegetable or two? How about a new fish? Let’s get creative people. If we can have a space station floating around in atmospheric continuum surely we can come up with something new for company dinner?

Staying home is really not an option for me now either so currently I have begun looking for a part time job. This is not going along as enthusiastically as I would like. That, I might add, is totally on me. What I would like to be doing would be sitting in a deck chair floating on the Mediterranean Sea at the moment and that image keeps interfering with my dedication to sign up for work once again.  As I’ve said, it’s not that I don’t like to work.  I have worked most of my life. I just don’t want to work now. I used to wonder what I’d do if I retired. Now I know the answer to that I kind of like the idea. Actually I wonder how I fit everything into my life when I was a full time employee. These days I barely find time to brush my teeth and ostensibly I have nothing to do.

After perusing the job listings my mind keeps going back to coming up with something creative to do. Perhaps freelance work is the answer. It is not that I without skills. I am a graphic artist by trade, I’ve helped run a restaurant, and for years I was an administrative assistant. I have written articles for a newspaper and been both an event and catering manager to add to the list but still I suddenly feel like I don’t know where I fit in the puzzle. Truth is it’s been nearly ten years since I’ve drawn a paycheck. Makes for a little timidity when dipping my toe back in the water.

Being on my own again is still a matter of adjusting the fit.  My white knight is most likely not saddling his mighty steed as I write this, ready to whisk me off to the castle where I can enjoy eating grapes and being fanned by minions for the rest of my life. Over the past months I have come to the realization the person I can depend on 100% is me. That being said the solution to this problem needs to be an internal solution.

Local adult schools and the junior college are beginning their spring scheduling. That is another option I’ve been looking at. What if I retrained? I’m not too long in the tooth to grasp something new. Why not? But what? There are a lot of on-line options as well that I have been eyeing. I am not at a time in my life where I want to go back to school in search of a career. Been there, done that, as they say. However, a new field might be interesting. Something that doesn’t involve years of intense training but possibly draws on skills I already possess. So many questions.

My son gave me a weekend in Reno for my birthday at his timeshare. I am cashing this in next weekend. Perhaps I can turn that penny slot machine into a miracle maker and take home the big money. Surely these casinos have some extra they could share and still manage to keep their doors open. Not much of a gambler I’m afraid so probably a better chance my prince is breaking that saddle out of the tack room but one can always believe in miracles.

Have a lucky and productive day. Let you know how the jackpot goes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avocado Salsa

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

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

Serves 4

 

 

 

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Here we are perched on the lip of another election year waiting to be swallowed whole. The usual onslaught of mean spirited ads already populating prime time slots only promise to increase in ugliness as voting time draws near. Male against female, democrat versus republican, conservative swatting at liberal, and none of them playing well with others. Throw all this in the pot with the impeachment trial looming on the horizon and you have a really unappetizing stew.

It is idealistic at best to think we’re all going to get along. History tells us we do not get along with each other as a general rule. This began in prehistoric times with one tribe member bashing another over the head over a hunk of raw meat, and has expanded to entire nations going to the mat over land, resources, or religious division. Each faction believes theirs is the best way to do things, their needs the most critical, their skin color the most desirable, their method of operation the most efficient, etc. etc. Wars do not erupt because people are seeing eye to eye. It would be nice, however, to occasionally strike a harmonious note. Just for a change of pace.

Interestingly people seem to come together at their highest level when the situation is dire. In an emergency the issues of race, religion, political bent, or social status seems to disappear in the mist and in many cases people work together toward a united goal. Too bad we have to wait for disaster to find this common ground.

Last weekend I watched the movie Thirteen Weeks for the first time. The central plot revolves around the Cuban missile crisis. Too young at the time to realize how close we came to going to war with Russia, I do recall teachers putting us through bomb drills.  We would practice crouching under our desks with our hands over our heads. This apparently was to be our defense in the event a nuclear weapon was hurling towards us through space programed for our exact coordinates. Really? This would do what exactly? We wouldn’t see it coming? Several families in my town had bomb shelters built as an added precaution. These cement structures were fully stocked and ready to roll should an invasion become imminent. From what I understand fallout remains in the air at a toxic level for about two weeks so that seemed like a viable way to go or at least it did back in the day. Perhaps not having wars or setting off bombs might be a better solution, but those are just my thoughts on the subject. Sounds simplistic but in actual fact that would be the cure for the disease.

During a conversation with one of my Canadian cousins last week she mentioned she had been terrified the first time she ventured into the states. To their minds we are gun toting outlaws something like those who existed in the Wild West. According to her she thought everyone is the U.S. was “packing heat”, so to speak, with concealed weapons more common then sneezes in a flu ward. It is true, if indeed my facts are correct, U.S. citizens are the most armed of any nation in the world. Whether or not you are more likely to be “packing” might depend on any number of factors. Where you live perhaps, what you do, or even how comfortable your family unit is having weaponry on the premises.

For example, David, my ex-husband is from Texas. People hailing from those parts are not a group known for voting against the NRA. For many of them weapons are a way of life. Early on David was taught by the older members of his household to respect the guns in the house and how to safely use them. The man was Texan from the top of his Stetson hat down to the heels of his scuffed cowboy boots. That being said, his choice of transportation was naturally an old Ford pick-up. The failing work horse was his baby. They shared many a weekend with David lying on his back on the driveway or bending over under the hood trying to keep the car on the road. Forgive me, truck, not car. I was called to task frequently for referring to his vehicle as such. Apparently in Texas this could be a shooting offense. Physically it had also seen better days. The paint job had long faded from a bright factory yellow to a faded buttermilk with spots of rust peeking through here and there.  The window on the driver’s side door was missing replaced during rainy months with a 33 gallon trash bag to keep the driver dry. A gun rack hung in the back window next to a picture of the American flag and his rear bumper sported a sticker reading “Honk again I’m reloading”. Believe that says it all.

When he went on the night shift leaving me to fend for myself after dark, he suggested getting a pistol for my protection. I voted no. I did not grow up around weapons. Nova Scotia is well known for its hunting areas. Often during hunting season I would hear the distant sound of gunshots. Certainly I wasn’t harboring the assumption hunters chased down their prey then asked the animal politely to sacrifice themselves so they’d have something to hang over the mantel. However, no one in my circle had a gun or hunted so I had never seen a gun of any kind. Truth be known guns scare the bikini underwear off me and I never had any interest on being on either end of one of them.

My lack of enthusiasm having been registered and vetoed, he purchased a gun anyhow. Don’t ask me what type it was but semi-automatic handgun would be a safe description. You had to pull the “thing” back to “chamber” a bullet. Don’t ask me to name the thing, I didn’t want too much information in case an interrogation lurked in my future. The gun was too stiff for me to chamber the bullet so he concentrated on teaching me to aim and shoot it. After nearly taking out the wall in the garage and an unsuspecting neighbor’s cat the decision came about that he would load the gun, leave the safety on and show me how to remove same should an intruder be in the house. Great. I left it under the night table fully aware if I ever had use it most likely by the time I remembered how to remove the safety and aim it I would either be overrun by the intruder or most probably have shot myself in the foot.

One night about a month into my gun ownership I woke to hear a loud banging in the back yard. My dog was barking and madly scratching at the sliding glass door in the kitchen. Slowly I crept out of bed retrieving my weapon from under the night stand and made my way to the kitchen. Heart pounding at an amazing rate I took off the safety and flung the drapes back on the window. Flicking the light on I yelled, “I have a gun and I’m not afraid to use it”. The light flooded the patio illuminating the culprit now clearly visible standing by the barbecue. A large possum had it’s head caught in the drip can (a tin can used for catching grease) and was frantically trying to smack it off by beating against the foot of the grill. Poor little guy. They’re already nearly blind as it is and having a No. 10 can of creamed corn covering his head surely wasn’t improving the situation. Gently placing the gun back in it’s hiding place I went out to see if I could help. Possums are not known for their sunny dispositions when it comes to interacting with humans. Before coming outside I pulled on David’s heavy industrial gloves which covered my arms to my elbows.  A lot of writhing and growling ensued before I was able to free him or her with the help of a long handled fork (my weapon of choice). After that I insisted the gun find another home and never saw it again. Not any worse off for it I assure you and the possum too. That possum was lucky that the inside of that corn can wasn’t the last thing he saw before I blew him and the precious barbecue into the atmospheric continuum undoubtedly shooting myself in the foot in the process.

I’m sure gun laws will be bounced around in this election year. I’m on the fence about this. I believe this can be a dangerous world and if someone with malignant intentions was threatening me or mine I like to think I could react in kind. However, I see absolutely no reason for hunters to be armed with automatic weapons to shoot a poor deer. The need for these high powered guns escapes me. Probably if I had to shoot anything I’d become a vegan. Easy to hide behind a plastic wrapper in Raley’s meat department. While living in Arkansas I saw David field dress a deer. No he was not picking out a nice billowy cotton sheath for the poor animal to wear, he was removing its entrails to keep the meat from spoiling. Warning this is not a procedure I suggest you observe if you are planning on eating meat or anything else really for the next couple of weeks. One of the younger men lost his lunch on his blue tick hound while watching and I thought seriously about joining him. As David would say, “Texas is hard on women and dogs”. He had great respect for the animal and though I am not fond of venison he made a lasagna using the meat that was actually delicious.

Perhaps my thought for today is to think before you react. We’re all in this together. It doesn’t make it any easier when we can’t work as a team. Reminds me of being in a row boat with eight people each trying to row in a different direction, highly frustrating and doesn’t get you closer to shore. Have a great one!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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