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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In 1990 I found myself living in Ashdown, Arkansas. Ashdown is on the southern border of Arkansas about 45 minutes north of Texarkana. The area is generally referred to as the tri-state area because the borders of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana all come together just south of Texarkana. Texarkana is marked by State Line Boulevard running smack down the center of the city. If you are driving south, the right side of the white line lies in Texas, with Arkansas falling on the left. The Texas side, surprisingly, was dry when I lived there, with the Arkansas side being wet. I have no idea how this stands as of this writing. Ashdown, was in a dry county. If you wanted a beer on payday on a hot, sticky, Friday night (which would be most of them) you had to hop in your car and drive twenty-five minutes to the next wet county to get you one. The amount of liquor you could bring in was also monitored, and if you were an over imbiber your neighbors would sometimes check out your trunk to see what you were unloading and put a bee in the right ears about your activities. Once I drove to the liquor store on such a Friday night to get my husband a six pack so he would loaded and ready for bear when his ball game came on the following Sunday. The liquor store was situated on a rather isolated patch of land about halfway between Ashdown and Texarkana. Pulling in, I parked my car in the nearly empty dirt lot across from a beater of a pick up truck with three men seated in the cab. One of them, the driver, said something suggestive out the window to me as I got out of my car and headed toward the building. I had worked on construction sites for several years by that time, and had learned to ignore such statements. Inside, while retrieving an ice cold six from the cooler, I took notice of the man standing behind the counter. Built like a wrestler, he was wearing a Harley Davidson shirt. Though his left arm was whole, the right arm stopped at the elbow, and was wrapped with an ace bandage. I say this not for any reason in particular, except when he was ringing me up he dropped something, and while retrieving it brought up the missing appendage telling me he’d lost it while serving his country in Viet Nam. I thanked him for his service. After carrying on the usual customer, clerk, conversation for a few minutes, I placed my beer on the counter. I paid, got my change, and headed back out the door stepping into the oven-like lingering heat of the day. Standing by my car were the three men from the truck. By all appearances, they had already availed themselves of something alcoholic to drink. One of them, the driver again, was resting directly against my driver’s side door. I stopped walking towards them and pondered what course of action to take. One of them made another off-color comment to me, and the man next to him whistled loudly. My internal alarms began going off. Surveying the situation, I realized how vulnerable I was. Lonely stretch of road, small woman, three inebriated men, not great odds. Instead of continuing in the direction I was going, I turned and went back into the store, explaining the situation to the owner. When I stopped talking, the man reached under the counter and whipped out a shotgun, and in one swift movement with his left arm cocked it and walked out the door. Hello? I was thinking more, let’s dial 9-1-1, but okay. Wondering what on earth I had gotten myself into, and writing a note to self to have my hubby get his own beer from now on, I inched over to look out the window. The four men were gesturing and obviously not having a friendly chat. The driver, offering one last international one finger salute, followed the other two men to their truck, and music blaring, started the engine, and pulled out of the parking lot. My heart began to settle down to a normal rythm rather than the drum solo from Wipeout it had been previously entertaining. Whew.

I remained in the store until the owner returned, thanking him profusely when he came in for protecting my honor. He suggested I stick around about fifteen minutes to give the men had a chance to get a good head start. I didn’t need to be asked twice. Returning his weapon to it’s original hiding place, we easily took up our previous conversation where we’d left off. As often is the case in that part of the country, the topic turned to fishing. Catfish was a mainstay around there, being featured on nearly every menu I’d opened since arriving, along with it’s sidekick, hush puppies. Catfish was still considered a bottom feeder on the west coast, and hadn’t gained popularity in California as yet at that time, but has certainly picked up speed since I’ve returned. David, my husband, was from those parts and had been dropping a line in the water since he was a boy. Many times while we were living in Ashdown, the southern fried catfish served to company at our house was put there thanks to David’s excellent angling chops. Explaining this to Ben, we were now on a first name basis, him being my hero and all, he suggested we join him for a planned fishing trip on the bayous two weekends from then. Exchanging contact information, I told him I would ask David and get back to him. Keeping one eye open for that beaten up old Ford truck, I made it home without any further trouble. David, when I recalled my adventures, said I was never to go there again alone without him. Check and double check. It’s a dangerous world out there. I didn’t want to be featured on an episode of the Forensic Files.

David rarely passed up an offer for a day on the water and this was to be no exception. Plans were made with our new friend, Ben, and times set for my first adventure out on a bayou. I was both excited and terrified, at the same time. David had shared with me many of his experiences back in the swampy areas of Arkansas and Louisiana, both states of which he lived in at one time or another. One particularly alarming story he told was when he and a friend had gone fishing in Louisiana. It was early morning, as he told it, and as soon as he dropped a line in the water it seemed like a fish was on the line. In order to keep the fish fresh, as he reeled them in, he attached them to a stringer. A stringer is a long chain with a series of hooks attached to hold your recently caught fish which you dangle off the side of the boat submerged in the water. The two men sat peacefully floating along, I’m sure with an empty beer can or two between them, when David noticed the stringer was moving around quite vigorously. Thinking perhaps a larger fish was pilfering one of the smaller ones on the line, he yanked the stringer into the boat to investigate. Mouth expanded over a fish, a cottonmouth landed, writhing and not at all happy about the situation he was in, in the bottom of the boat. David said he and his buddy nearly beat each other to death with the oars trying to get it back in water, finally succeeding. I asked why they didn’t jump in the water. His reply, “he may have had friends, or there might have been a gator floating around. What? Why would you choose to fish there? Surely there are safer waters to find yourself floating on? As they say in the south,”I guarantee”.

Another fishing story floating about in my mind that morning on the way to Ben’s, was again set back in the bayous. This time David was by himself in a piroque. A piroque, is a flat bottomed boat, looking much like a canoe, in his case made of aluminum. The bayous, as I was come to learn, have a unique beauty to them. Eerily still, but for the sounds of birds calling to each other from the tree tops, or insects buzzing around your ear. Things can be seen floating by under the surface of the muddy water. I didn’t ask, and didn’t want to know. On the day he told about, he said there was no breeze and it was sticky hot, an apt description for any sunny day down there. Suddenly, he heard a noise that sounded like a freight train that seemed to be rolling toward him out of nowhere. In seconds the sky over him got dark and he was surrounded by a huge cloud of mosquitos. “Momma”. He said they were swarming on his face, arms and legs. For weeks he was covered in calamine lotion to the point where he looked liked a Kabuki dancer. Not for me. I’m not a bug girl on even the best of days.

The last story, another fishing tale, of course, took place in Louisiana once again. Fishing with a buddy from work, according to David the fish weren’t biting much as the heat of the day had arrived. As is typical in Louisiana and Arkansas, clouds had moved overhead indicating a quick dousing of summer rain was imminent. This was a phenomena I had to adjust to when living down there. It doesn’t rain in the summer in California, or at least very rarely. In the humid southern states it’s nearly a daily occurrence. This accounts for the fetid smell in the woods there, because the vegetation below the surface rots under the sizzling top cover. This day the clouds opened up and a downpour ensued. The weather turned ugly fast and, according to David, a water spout, or water tornado formed where they were. The story goes all the water was sucked up leaving them almost stranded on a bank and holding on for dear life and then the sky relinquished it’s burden again nearly drowning them. Now these fish tales may be only that, but they had enough validity for me to have me wondering why I was bumping along this dirt road in Southern Arkansas probably heading toward certain death.

In the end, I found the bayous most enchanting in their way. In spite of all the bug spray I was sporting, I managed to get quite a few bites on what skin was exposed. I caught a few fish, heard some fascinating stories, and had an adventure, while making a new friend. Our day culminated with fried catfish, hush puppies, steamed corn and lots of laughs. Another stamp in my memory book.

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Dale’s phone went under this week. We had a lovely ceremony by the recycle bin. Sorry I didn’t get the invites out. That being said, the morning following we were fourth in line at his provider’s store when they opened, to purchase him a new one. For Dale, his phone is an extension of his hand. This, unlike me, who can never find my phone and when I do wish I had left it alone and let it remain lost. One salesperson was manning the oars. He explained there would be a wait. True to his word, it took about a half an hour until we were finally seated across from him at his desk. All good, it’s not like the Queen was coming for lunch. The salesman, David, turned out to also be the owner of the establishment, and a really nice, and extremely helpful human being. He apologized again for the wait. I suggested he needed more faces behind the three empty service desks. He explained he had ads running in the hopes of hiring people, but unlike several years ago when twenty people submitted their resumes a half an hour after he placed an ad, nowadays resumes dribbled in at an alarmingly slow rate, and he couldn’t fill his open positions. At one point, he asked me if I wanted to sign up. Well, I would, but I have a lot of irons on the fire, and am probably not the most reliable candidate for any position at the moment.

After poking about the unresponsive phone for any signs of life, he was thankfully able to revive it long enough to retrieve the information before it went dark for the last time. We thanked it for its service and looked at the options available for a replacement. My Iphone11 was sitting on the desk. Noticing it, David commented I too would be needing an upgrade pretty soon. Please, this was the upgrade. I just purchased for a car payment and change eight months ago. I will have to limp along without the next and best technology for a little while I’m afraid.

Another upgrade I probably need and won’t get anytime soon is my GPS. I know everybody uses their cell phones to navigate but I started with my GPS, and I’m nothing if not loyal. Rick and I ordered our first unit to eliminate what I referred to as his “road rage”, well before it was a fashionable term. The rage was not directed towards inconsiderate drivers on the road, but rather at me sitting in the passengers seat trying to decipher a map. Why is it men hand their spouses a map and expect us to be the tour guide when we have never been where we are going either? Just because I have a printed map in front of my face does not guarantee I have any idea where I am. Maps can be confusing and difficult to follow. The GPS immediately lifted the burden of guiding us places off of me, and transferred it to the lady who lives in the device, who we came to call Eleanor. I don’t know why. Eleanor was such a blessing. Even when she occasionally went off grid, she had all the animus coming her way when we found ourselves going in circles, while I basked in a glow of blissful indifference.

Last Friday I packed up my essentials, got in the car, and programmed Eleanor to guide me to my son’s house in the Bay Area. It’s not that I don’t know where to locate my children without benefit of electronic equipment, but my son has recently moved, and I’ve only been to the new house once since the pandemic reshaped our lives. There’s something so freeing about driving along listening to music. My particular favorites are found on the 70’s classic rock stations. Rolling along with Creedance or Lynyrd Skynyrd makes my soul smile. Thankfully, the freeways though packed with the usual burden of cars, didn’t create any log jams on the way down. My son and his girlfriend share a large home on an equally large lot which they need to accommodate the five children they share together. They are great kids, but whether great or not, five kids between the ages of eleven and twenty means there aren’t a lot of unfilled moments. The house and grounds are set up to keep them occupied, it worked well for me too. I played ping pong, water volley ball, and all variety of board games. We walked, talked, ate, and generally had a great time. By the time I got in the car and pointed it towards home I just put it on auto-pilot and let whoever that guy is in there commiserate with Eleanor to get me to my destination. Whew. When you’ve had a year and a half of boring inactivity, getting all the fun thrown at you in one weekend without a diffuser can be exhausting.

I went into several stores while visiting, and was surprised to find everyone wearing masks again. We’re doing the two steps forward, one step back routine in would seem. The national health group was saying on the news we have a glut of vaccine that is going to go to waste because nobody is signing up to relinquish their arms. Wow. That is sad news to me. That’s like like saying I have a burn, I have salve available to make the pain go away, but I’m not going to use it because I don’t want to be told what to do. I will never understand this mentality, but there you go. One of the things I am working on, because my psyche is always a work in progress, is learning to accept that, yes, others can entertain a different point of view than myself. I know! It just seems wrong doesn’t it? In this case, however, these decisions effect us all. I do not want to go back to Point A again, when we have a way to go forward not backward, but what can you do? Since I am now fully vaccinated, and have lived through the virus, I am trying to live my life in a somewhat normal way and hopeful that at some point this will all be behind us.

It was interesting to watch the two billionaires soar toward the stars recently. They weren’t long flights, but seemed very successful in doing what they were intended to do. Many people were polled and asked if they would be interested in exploring the galaxy, and I was surprised a high percentage of the group interviewed had no interest at all in what is out there. If we don’t start taking better care of this planet, we might not have a choice but to begin looking for another to inhabit. I’m just saying. I did hear this morning that they have learned that cows have an enzyme in their stomachs that will absorb or process plastic. That’s interesting. Plastic is becoming a big problem in our world. As a kid I drank my water out of the tap in the kitchen or stuck my head under the hose nozzle outside. I’m not fully convinced that because it comes in a plastic bottle these days it’s somehow better for you, but, again, I’m open to discussion on that.

I am glad to be back home. The much needed break was so appreciated but it’s always nice to return to my comfy old bed with its valleys and hills contoured to my body, and to see Dale and Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, who though she wouldn’t admit it, misses me when I’m gone.

Anyhow, have a good hump day.

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Three times during phone calls this past week, I ended up in discussions with friends about their dealings with insensitive people. You know who they are, those people who seem perfectly at ease saying the most insensitive or inappropriate things directly to your face. I know I have experienced such exchanges, one happened just the other day. I was having a conversation with a health care worker regarding the odd synchronicity of the fact Dale is suffering from lung cancer and three years ago my significant other of twenty years, Rick, passed away from the exact same disease. To add to the common threads, Dale has the same oncologist as Rick had, and this was the nurse on staff when he was sick. Instead of offering some sort of supportive or uplifting comment one might expect from a health care provider, the woman said to me, “Boy, I wouldn’t stand in line to date you.” Really? Well guaranteed you wouldn’t be on the top of my list of candidates either. Wow.

Another friend of mine was telling me about a woman she recently attended a luncheon with. The woman was attempting to scoop salsa out of a container sitting on the table between the two of them. Since it was much closer to my friend, by way of a helpful gesture, she turned the dish around and moved it in the other woman’s direction so it would be easier for her to reach. Instead of simply saying, “thank you”, the woman said, “You know, I’m perfectly capable of managing this by myself.” Uhhhhh, you’re welcome. Perhaps there is some truth to the old saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.”

I had a relative relate an experience she had last week when she went into tony skincare store to take advantage of an advertised facial special. This is the kind of place where you can pick up a jar of callus cream for just under $200, you could buy at CVS in less sophisticated packaging for $14.95. Have you noticed the sales women working in these types of businesses are always impeccably pulled together? Each hair on their heads is expertly coifed, lips perfectly shaded and lined, with not one eyelash out of place. I try to avoid going into such establishments at all costs. Largely because my allergies don’t do well with the mishmash of overwhelming fragrances assaulting my nostrils once inside, but also because my K-Mart flip flops and Maybelline eye shadow might not be welcomed there. Depressing. At any rate, my friend explained to the flawless woman behind the counter the reason for her visit was the advertised facial. A well manicured finger pointed my friend towards a chair in front of a mirror where she was instructed to remain while the lady retrieved what she referred to as her “tool kit” from the other room. Shortly, the woman returned with a store apron in place, carrying a tray of armory and began an overall inspection of my friends face. As her fingers moved along her skin, she threw in a lot of “hmmmm’s” and “oh dears” for good measure. When done, she said, “Wow, your skin is so dry it’s like boot leather. I think you’d better upgrade to our complete skin care treatment rather than settling for the less aggressive treatment listed in the ad.” Was this the approach suggested in the “welcome to the company brochure”? My friend picked up her handbag, and like Elvis left the building.

Everyone seems mad at everyone else of late. Thoughtfulness, kindness, and generosity, in spite of all the anger being tossed around, should not be allowed to go out of style. Dale is really my guide in this territory. When out in public, the man has never met a person he didn’t call friend. By the time we leave a store people are calling him by name and he has engaged in conversations with half the strangers in the aisles. Always on meeting a new person he asks their name and then introduces himself to them. At first I was a little put off by this, but I have to say I have watched unfriendly, outwardly unapproachable, people warm up once he performs his magic on them. It’s a gift he has for interaction and communication that should be taught in school.

God knows, I have been known to trip over my own loose lips a time or two. There were several lessons, when it came to engaging in conversations with strangers, I learned early on. The first, never presume any female you do not know to be pregnant, ever. I recall going into a boutique store to do some shopping many years ago. A pleasant sales lady came up to greet me and welcome me to the store. After I had selected several items to try on, the woman suggested starting a fitting room for me. After carrying on a friendly exchange for several minutes, I noticed her well rounded stomach and assumed she must be pregnant. You know the old saying about assume, “makes an ass out of you and me”. I asked when the baby was due. Wrinkling her forehead in confusion she said “what baby”? I didn’t even bother to stay to try on the clothes I had picked out. Sigh.

Lesson two, if you do not know a person you are dealing with stick with the standard conversation carriers like weather or general commentary. Never assume who the players are until you have been handed a game roster. In the 1980’s I applied for, and got, a job working for the general manager of a large aluminum can manufacturer. Although I didn’t know it at the time working, Alan, my new boss, a man in his late forties, was busy entertaining a full blown mid-life crisis. I should have realized this by the flashy red sports car parked in the GM spot in the employee parking lot, the poorly crafted toupee perched precariously over the bald spot on the top of his head, the personal gym in the room behind his office, or just his general demeanor of trying to exude youth and vigor. The second week after I was hired, I was informed it was to be my job to organize the company picnic. This included locating a suitable venue, hiring a caterer, and organizing activities for the employees and their families to engage in while at the event. For some reason, all my working career I ended up being tasked with these functions. Though usually not in my job description, I never minded at all. Event planning was a lot less dry than typing memos or transcribing dictation. I’m glad it kept falling under my ubrella, because as it turned out, this background came in extremely handy when Rick and I bought the restaurant and one of the titles under my name was Catering and Event Planner. Sometimes, life guides you in the right direction, even if you don’t understand where you’re going at the time you are going there. But, I digress. As the days passed the event plans began to form up nicely. I found an available Saturday open at a local park with areas set up for large events such as ours, surrounding a huge man-made lake. After tasting samples from five or six vendors, “B.J. The Barbecue Guy” was chosen to provide ribs, chicken, and “the fixin’s”, as he referred to them, for the three hundred employees and their wives and families who had answered yes to the invitation email. Yay.

Alan, informed me he would be bringing his wife and two daughters as well as his mother-in-law, who apparently lived with them to kept an eye on things when Alan and his wife were at work. Sounded good to me. I was more concerned with B.J. providing enough potato salad for the swelling guest list or that the activities I planned were well received. When the big day arrived, I got there to early to make sure everything was going as discussed. People began arriving in droves. While I was greeting and organizing people, Alan showed up next to me with his wife and one of his girls. I introduced myself to his wife and daughter by turning to the older of the two women and extending my hand saying, “Hi, I’m Susie, you must be Alan’s wife, and then turning to the younger girl and saying, “and you must be Sarah (Alan’s oldest daughter)”. It got quiet. What? Doing I quick inspection of myself I didn’t notice anything out of order. Did I have potato salad on my sleeve? Suddenly two little girls ran up to the group, the oldest of which was coincidentally also named Sarah. Hmmmmm. Yup. The teenager in the shorts with the perfect abs was actually the Mrs. and the older lady (and by older I mean early forties) was Alan’s mother-in-law. Oh-oh. Sorry. That marriage would have been illegal in some states. I’m just saying. Having stepped up to the altar four times myself, who am I to make a judgement call when it comes to marriage choices?

One friend told me she wished when confronted with someone with no filters on their thoughts or mouth, she had said, “Do you have any idea how offensive I am finding what you just said to me?” Wouldn’t that be great? I’m guessing in practice if we all said what we were really thinking, rather than what is the PC response to say, our list of friends and acquaintances might dwindle down to the mailman and the lady behind the prescription counter, and even those two relationships might be tenuous.

I guess what I’m saying is, it is better to think before opening your mouth and saying something potentially hurtful to the recipient. Though telling the truth is a good way to live your life in most cases, perhaps in some instances it is better to keep your opinion to yourself and spare someone the benefit of your keen insight. A little kindness is never inappropriate or offensive. I wonder sometimes why people feel the need to say something unpleasant. Is it that they don’t think about the words passing over their lips, that they don’t care, or worse yet it is intentional? Wouldn’t it be better, even if you have a snarky or mean thought, to think it, acknowledge it (to yourself not the world), and then dismiss it as not helpful or necessary?

Peaceful thoughts……

Mindfulness is a concept that is running around the flagpole a lot recently. Basically, it’s being in the present moment or “in the now” as it is sometimes stated. Being aware of your feelings, thoughts and emotions but dealing with them in a calm, almost distant way, rather than being overly reactive. I like this quote about the practice of mindfulness from the Greater Good Magazine, Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens. Makes me feel peaceful, and that is the point of the exercise. Very zen.

My plan, though not always possible, is to surround myself with upbeat, supportive people. They don’t have to share my views, but do need to acknowledge my right to have them, and I will extend the same courtesy to them. People who see the best in me, and are not intent on highlighting the worst. Friendship should run like a commuter train, sometimes going one way, and other times the other.

With many storms brewing around me these days, I try hard to concentrate on not worrying about tomorrow or wishing yesterday to be different, and simply being where I am right now this exact minute and milking this time for all it’s worth. I wish you a great moment, an excellent day, a second to stop and ponder what you are about to say and evaluate if it is valuable or worth expressing. One happy day on toast for me is all I need right now, that’s all I’m saying

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Birthday months are coming up in my family. I keep a calendar to remember all of them, but in spite of the effort, often find myself sending belated birthday cards these days. Too much going on to keep up with, and it leaves me feeling totally disorganized. My cat is sitting at my feet as I write this, waiting impatiently for her morning allotment of fishy treats. Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, could care less if I miss a birthday or two here or there, or if dinner is on time, or I’m behind schedule. Her main concern is four times a day I show up with two treats in my hand for her to enjoy. My, my, we are a tad self involved, even for a feline. Being her one and only well loved human, I do my best to keep her needs met. Keeping everybody happy is a job no applicant is qualified to fill. I know, I’ve tried for lo these many years. Finally, I have learned you have to keep yourself afloat, and then when you’re buoyant enough, you can lend a hand to pull others in the raft with the energy you have left.

The weather lady is saying another epic heat wave is headed our way. Oh goody. It’s supposed to reach 107 and above by Saturday. This will test people’s nerves as well as our electrical grid. Hopefully, it will not ignite any brush fires or create rolling blackouts. We have a generator sitting by the shed all primed and ready to go, but you can’t hook your A/C up to it. It’s only the first part of July, and already we are logging our third dangerous heat wave. This doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season. Personally, you could eliminate summer entirely for me, the way things seem to be headed, and leave the three other seasons for us to enjoy year round. As a kid, I could not wait for summer to arrive. Ahhhhh, sweet, lazy, crazy days of summer. No school, of course, was the main attraction, and it brought with it glorious long, hot, days filled with chlorine laced pools, bike rides along tree covered paths and backyard barbecues on the weekends. I can still picture my stepdad on the patio in his “Kiss the Cook” apron. The man could smoke, drink, and talk concurrently. He’d be flipping burgers and turning hot dogs, a lit cigarette dangling from his lips, and his martini glass glistening in the cone shaped glass next to him with an olive floating in it. Back then, other than the holidays, it was my favorite time of year. Not any more.

Since summer has arrived, whether I welcomed it or not, I decided to take a trip to my son’s next week. Recently he has upgraded his backyard and the pool area and he’s invited me to come and check it out. Having little access to swimming areas over the past few years, I didn’t have much need for swim wear. After looking at what my closet had to offer, I decided it was time to go bathing suit shopping. Not my favorite way to wile away an afternoon. It’s not that my body would cause young children to cringe in horror was I to expose it, mind you. However, though my weight has remained fairly static over the years, things aren’t as toned and firm as they could be. “You could go to the gym”, you say. Yes, I could. It’s not that I get no exercise, I walk every day, but I realize this does not have the same impact as taking up jazzersize, or zumba or whatever is fashionable with the impeccably cut ab group these days. Truth is, I am not one of those humans who can’t wait to pull on some Spandex and go work up a good sweat on an elliptical cross trainer or get up close and personal with some free weights. Actually, I’d rather be shot in the foot. There is a great gym not to far from my house. Pre-Covid I went down and took a tour. I talked myself into signing up for a year’s membership and then the virus showed up and blew the wind right out of that sail. Don’t feel sorry for me, there were no tears shed over this. Now I’m thinking about signing up once again. I’m not doing anything about it, but at least it’s shown up in the options for getting in shape column.

I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about getting older or the changes occurring to the body. Mostly, I’m just excited when I open my eyes in the morning and find I’m still here. Aging is part of life. Nobody is going to avoid it. Even those with the wherewithal to hire skilled plastic surgeons to pull up this up and tuck that in will eventually have to concede to the passage of time and go through the process with the rest of us. I still want to take a swim, and will continue to do so even when my body does scare young children, because life is to be lived and I intend to do exactly that for all the years I’m gifted with while on this earth.

So many of my friends worry endlessly about other people’s opinion of them. I try not to do this. It’s not I don’t care what people think about me, I do. I don’t think anyone enjoys being disliked or ridiculed. It is more I have come to the understanding every person I meet may not like me. Not every human I come in contact with will share my point of view, find my personality engaging, see humor where I do, or wish to spend time with me. This, in my estimation, is a fact of life. It does not mean I am a bad person, not likable, or obnoxious, though some might argue the point, but rather we all have different tastes and enjoy different types of people. I think we’ve all had people in our lives who instantly on meeting them we feel a strong connection. I am blessed to have a lot of dear friends who fit under this category. Then there are those people who you might have known for a long time who you will never share that special type of bond or friendship with. Doesn’t mean they aren’t good people, just not a connection of commonality you wish to foster on a deeper level.

I have reached a point where, though I’m still learning new things each and every day, I have pretty much set my sail in a particular direction and most likely that is the lane I will hold my course in. I do keep doing my best to adjust my lens when new opinions cross my desk, and keep my mind open to other ways of looking at a given subject or new concept. Nothing should be totally static in our lives, for that can create a stagnant state. Things can change tomorrow, they often do. My life has changed so many times up until now, I have run out of digits to count them on. Change, like growing older, is an expected part of being alive.

,Sometimes I think I’m ready to move again. My best friend is leaving California, my children are well established and busy with their lives, but where? This is not an imminent thing for sure. I have my mom to take care of and Dale, my companion, has cancer, so these are situations floating about in limbo riddled with question marks and unknowns. I will ride out each of these storms until the dust has settled once again in my world and the compass point is again directing my way. Being a bit of a fairy dust spreader, I hope my mother and Dale are with me far off in the distant future. The end to their stories, and mine, is yet left to be written in the great book chronicling our lives. It will be as it is, and all I can do is hold on tightly to the side of the boat and hope we all remain together until the end of the ride. Hope is such a powerful emotion. I’m glad when we were in the conception phase of being, our creator thought to include it in the original package. It’s like a warm blanket to wrap around us in cold harsh times.

Moving, as I’ve said many times, is not unfamiliar to me. Thirty-nine times I have packed up my worldly possessions and moved to another location. That’s a lot of packing paper to my credit. When my ex-husband and I got assigned to a job in Nitro, West Virginia we were at the time winding up a year and a couple of months in Arkansas. Moving was part of the landscape for the type of work he did, so Nitro was simply the next pin on the map. The spouses of those employed for the construction company he worked for were accustomed to having their lives uprooted and replanted somewhere else around the country. We formed a wives group, after a while, composed of those of us moving in similar circles. At one meeting, since most of us liked to cook, we decided to compile a cookbook of our time together, to include all our favorite recipes along with a story to accompany each contribution. Being the only artist in the group, I was tasked with creating a suitable cover. I came up with a picture of a woman, bent over, carrying all her wordly possessions on her back. It was a great success. Often I take out that old binder, pages now dotted with the usual grease stains and spill marks associated with someone who likes to work in the kitchen, and reread the stories included with each recipe or put one on the menu for dinner. I haven’t seen these ladies since that chapter of my life closed, but think of them often and the laughs and tears we shared. It was a time of great adventure on the open road. There was a real freedom associated with not hanging your hat too long in one location, paired with a sort of heady anticipation of what was to come around the bend on your next assignment. The enticing uncertainty associated with living your life in an unpredictable sort of way. After I had hung up my hard hat, as I worked a job or two myself, and David and I too had said our goodbyes, it took me a while to plant roots again in one spot without the restlessness whispering in my ear it was long past time to move on.

Nitro was an interesting place to find ourselves. David, my ex, worked at the plant located in Nitro itself, but we found a home to rent across the Kanawha River in St. Albans. A lot of people discount West Virginia as a great place to live, but truly the “mountain state” has a lot to offer. Visually it is quite beautiful, with a lot of gorgeous spots for a person taken with being outdoors to explore. We were to spend three years there on two separate trips, and of all the places we made our home over our eight years on the road, West Virginia would come to be remembered as my favorite. I will write more about my adventures there in my next blog. For now, I wish you a great day filled with exciting adventures.

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Growing up in Canada, Fourth of July was significant in our house only in that it was my grandmother’s birthday. July 4th was Independence Day, after all, for the United States of America, not the Canadian provinces. We do, however, celebrate Canada Day on July 1st in much the similar way. It’s a time for Canadians to celebrate their history, achievements, and culture. Since it began in 1867, nearly a hundred years after the U.S. claimed independence, I have a feeling perhaps we looked across the border and saw all the Americans having a helluva party and decided to join in. I’m just sayin. There is no doubt we Canadians enjoy a good party.

In Halifax on Canada Day, just like here, we packed a picnic, grabbed a blanket, and headed for a fireworks display. Often our venue of choice was the Waegwoltic Club, or “The Wag” as we referred to it back then. The name, so I’m told, is derived from a Mi’ kmaw word loosely translated to mean “end of water”. The Mi’kmaw were the dominant tribe in the Maritime provinces. The Wag was, and still is, located on the Northwest Arm of the Halifax harbor a fork which defines the western side of the Halifax Peninsula. My grandparents always held a membership at the club, and as their progeny I reaped the benefits of this membership during my childhood. In the summer months my grandmother would walk me to the bus stop around the corner with a friend or two in tow. When the bus arrived, we would excitedly pile on,locate a seat, and ride the bus to our final stop just outside the gates of The Wag. Many times she would have packed me a picnic lunch which I would eat at one of the many picnic tables provided, but sometimes I was given money to eat at the snack bar in the main clubhouse or to get an ice cream. Thinking of this now, it strikes me how kids don’t have these kind of adventures anymore. Nobody seemed to worry back then about us being abducted, least of all us. It’s not, I’m sure, that there weren’t plenty of bad people to go around in those days, I just think it was there wasn’t as efficient a transport of information such as the Internet to tell us about it, or perhaps times were simply different. In either case, I loved those days of freedom right down to pulling the cord and waiting for the bus doors to release us for a day of swimming and boating on the Arm.

“The Wag”

The Wag was my families usual spot to spend Canada Day. Sitting high on a hill on a blanket laid out on the grass, I would watch in fascination as the fireworks exploded in vivid splashes across the dark sky over our heads. The most impressive display of fireworks I ever witnessed was not above the Atlantic, however, but rather right here in Northern California. When they were youngsters my second husband and I took our three children (two mine, one his) to an Oakland A’s baseball game to celebrate the Fourth. Being California, there was no weather other than good weather to deal with, so the day was perfectly constructed for spending the afternoon outside. The stadium, near the San Francisco Bay, got a welcome ocean breeze to keep the temperature down, so even though we sat high in the more exposed nosebleed seats, we were not uncomfortable. The game was really secondary to everything else going on around us. Though it had been a long day, the children, having had their fill of typical baseball fare, were still wired for sound and raring to go. Between the hot dogs, peanuts and nachos their little stomachs must have been lined with cast iron to still be asking for ice cream when the vendor went by our aisle just before the fireworks began. As night fell, with the game decided, the festivities centered around the holiday began to ramp up. When the show began, we were so far off the ground as the fireworks exploded over our heads it felt almost as if we were part of the blast. For the youngest member of our group, my stepdaughter only “free” as she liked to pronounce with three chubby fingers extended, this was a bit too much. Was it not for the loud bursts overhead, the scream that emanated from that child’s mouth after the first rocket went up, most likely could have been picked up by spy cams in the Kremlin. OMG. In the end we watched the show fading out of view out of the back window of the car exiting the stadium parking lot with two sulking older children and and one sniffling little one. The price of parenthood. Sigh.

This year, though we’re now fully vaccinated and able to mingle with others, we decided to stay home. We binge watched “The Virgin River” series on Neflix most of the day in between filling our faces with leftovers from a dinner party we hosted on Friday night for several friends. There is something absolutely freeing about doing nothing. I didn’t bother to get dressed any further than the boxer shorts and tee shirt I was wearing when I rolled out of bed. My hair, though having had a good brushing along with my teeth (but not with the same utensil) when I first got up, was then left to fend for itself the rest of the day. Generally, I was a lazy no good layabout for the next twelve hours after rising. Loved it. Thankfully, we don’t live in a neighborhood, like many in the area, where people were up at three in the morning setting off fireworks. It’s not just how annoying that is to the people around them, but animals are traumatized by fireworks. My girlfriend’s schnauzer used to live in the cupboard under the sink when the Fourth of July rolled around. They had to medicate him. I love fireworks myself, but when we’re sitting on a tinder box like we are at the moment on the west coast, activities involving fire don’t make me comfortable. Fire crews responded to 1500 calls over the weekend. Wow. They had a busy couple of days.

Seems we are all “busy” all the time. When my kids call, they generally begin the conversation with “Mom, I’m really busy so I have about fifteen minutes before”….. a) a meeting, b) I arrive at whatever destination I am headed to, or c) I am tired of talking and just want to drive along in silence for a few minutes before the fun begins again once I arrive where I am going. Trying to book a weekend with my children is like trying to get reservations at Yosemite for Memorial Day weekend. Calendars are researched, children’s schedules are consulted, it is a major undertaking of epic proportions.

I’m guilty of “doing” constantly myself. Truly, I can’t remember the last time I spent a day pursuing not one thing above and beyond sloth. Doing so Sunday left me with the most peaceful feeling in my head. It felt as if everything I’d been worried about over the past few weeks had either faded considerably or even disappeared all together. I must remember to add to my calendar “Day off” from time to time and honor the writing. I think women suffer more than men from this. Now, now, if you’re male don’t get all upset by this. Statistics indicate women have much to be responsible for. I told a friend the other day it still amazes me I have been married four times and cannot ever remember seeing one of my husbands holding a toilet brush. More is expected of us, and for the most part we are up to the task. As I’ve mentioned before, though in many houses both parents need to work to keep things going, often women are still doing two more hours of housework a day than men. This is changing certainly, but not at warp speed for sure. A woman put up a post on Facebook a while back that said simply, “Can we all now agree that housework is not gender specific?” I’m in.

At the dinner party Friday night we were discussing how expensive things are getting. It’s hard to imagine my mother’s house when I was in high school, a nice, three bedroom, two bath, tract home in a lovely middle class neighborhood, was purchased for $28,000 and change. To add to the mix, it had a huge Olympic sized pool in the back yard. Today in California at least, you couldn’t purchase shares in a garage for that amount of money. I just filled up half of my tank on Saturday, and with the new gas tax just implemented, the receipt totaled $49.74. Now I have a mid-sized sedan I’m driving around in, so I can only imagine what people with SUV’s or trucks are dishing out. Where is all this tax money going one wonders? They say it is for infrastructure, roads, and bridges, etc. They have been saying that for some time. I went down a road the other day in a local park. The ranger at the gate told us it had a few potholes. A more accurate description would have been it had a few flat spots. Good Lord. My kidneys were up under my left ear lobe by the time we got to the bottom.

Last week when I went to Costco I could not believe how pricey meat has gotten. A package of short ribs was selling for nearly $50. Whoa. I half expected to see a guy in a trenchcoat waiting by the curb as we exited the building selling a little black market beef on the side. Thought of doing it myself. No wonder people aren’t getting enough to eat. I was distressed to hear a news commentator talking about food insecurity in this country. So many little ones going to bed with grumbling stomachs. I have volunteered at the local food bank since I moved to this area. You think your neighborhood is immune to this because there are nice houses and well manicured lawns, but food insecurity is a serious and real problem in the U.S. At any rate, I hope we all do what we can to help when we can. I had to use a food distribution place once while living in Washington. I remember the humiliating feeling of standing in line for a handout, and I also remember how kind the lady handing me the free box of food was, and how relieved I was to have it. I asked what I could do to pay them back, and she said simply “pay it forward”. Words to live by.

Hope you had a safe and sane Fourth and got to hug a few family and friends this year. Something to be doubly thankful for.

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I am feeling decidedly world weary today. My mind is creating all kinds of scenarios. There’s the one where I am sitting in an outdoor cafe on the French Riviera or another with me basking on a sunny stretch of beach in Portofino. There are time in our lives when everything seems to come down on us at once. During those times, one of which I am currently experiencing, I try to find my center and stay balanced. Perhaps there hasn’t been enough air for me in between the last period of chaos and this one, for me to properly rebuild my stamina. Whatever the case, I am stumbling a little more often then I usually do when the chute opens and the garbage begins to tumble down. Please notice the white flag I am waving in my right hand. I am not signalling for the horses to leave the gate. Help.

My mother used to say, “You could throw Susan out a ten story window and that girl will always land on her feet”. Susan, by the way, is an address I only permitted from my mother and my grandmother. Susan is far too formal a name for the person I am, and whenever I hear my full name, I always assume I am in trouble. “Susan, get in this house right now”, was a familiar line thrown out our back door growing up. Susie, which is the name most people refer to me by, was my great grandmother’s name. I was named after Susie Mack, and from all accounts Susie was a bit of a character. I like to believe I take after her in that way. It is true, I am a survivor. That, in and of itself, is a gift. I try to pile the gifts I have in my life, which are many, on the plate with the less desirable things to keep everything equitable. Again, balance in all things.

To add to my crazy personal life, the weather isn’t cooperating. Those of us here in California, well on the west coast in general, are in the middle of the worst drought on record. My cousin in British Columbia said she was frying her breakfast on the sidewalk, and a dear friend in Oregon texted me it was 115 in her neighborhood. She and her husband were trapped in their house with three dogs watching the thermometer rise. Each year, it gets drier and hotter, while on the other side of the country it gets wetter and hurricane activity increases. I watched a news story this morning about how scientists can read the rings of the massive sequoias to tell the story of historical drought situations over hundreds of years. According to the rings, this one’s a pip. Our reservoirs statewide are at 50% and the snow pack melted two months earlier than it should have. With the fire situation being critical as well, it is more than a tad unnerving. As I said in my previous blog, if cows would quit burping and pooping we’d be in better shape. Hard to believe gassy cattle are contributing to global warming, but it seems to be a fact. I should have known I’d pay for a lifetime burger addiction in one way or another.

It is hard to keep positive when the world keeps throwing negative tomatoes in your face. However, the other day while driving I experienced one of what I call my “near perfect moments” which was a real shot in the arm. The day was beautiful, a nearly perfect summer day in California. For those of you who have been here and enjoyed such a day, you will understand the distinction. Blue, blue skies with white billowy clouds floating about, a slight breeze moving the warm air through the leaves of the trees, and a generally lazy feel as if time had slightly slowed down to an easier pace if only for the moment. Surely the sun comes up in other areas of the world, it just seems to do it so beautifully sometimes here on the western coast of the United States. I have been all across the USA, made my home in six states thus far, and as yet haven’t located anywhere I’d rather live. Don’t misunderstand me, each state I lived in had something good to offer, it’s just California always called me home again. Driving along, as I was saying, I had a moment. Creedance was telling me to “run through the jungle” on the radio, the sun was pouring in through the partially open window warming my back, and the road stretched out before me as if beckoning me to come along for the ride. Suddenly my heart was filled with such a thankfulness for being alive. It really was the most exhilarating feeling, bringing tears to my eyes and creating goosebumps running along my legs and arms. If I could bottle that feeling, I could buy an island in the pacific and retire in style.

Music always moves me. Sometimes when I’m home I crank up one of my favorites and lose myself in the melody and lyrics. Creedance, like many of the 70’s bands, often takes my mind back to my misspent youth. Recently I had a discussion with a dear friend of mine about the same age as myself. That age would be in between almost old and old, in case you are wondering. We were talking about how much we have seen and what we have lived through since planting our feet on the planet. Quite an impressive resume we have amassed, I have to say. I was born not to let any grass grow under my feet. It interests me that the kids coming up today seem to drag their feet when it comes to growing up. I was poised at the starting gate at eighteen and sprang out of the gate the moment the gun went off. I don’t believe I ever thought about remaining in my parent’s house once I was out of school, at least not for very long. My mother would have liked it if I never moved out. When I got married at nineteen it was very difficult for her to cut the ties that bound us. At my wedding reception, she consumed half the champagne available and was reduced to a blubbering, sobbing mess before I left on my honeymoon. At the time I had no children naturally (or at least hopefully), and at that age I was imbued with very little sense, so I didn’t have any understanding of why she was behaving in such a way. Now, of course, having children of my own, I get her “only chick”, as she likes to call me, was going out the garden gate and leaving her behind with an empty nest. Most valid things we learn, I have come to believe, come to us after we have at least turned thirty. Before that, we’re just a mold without shape. What business I had being married at nineteen defies logic. I did not possess one shred of life knowledge, and had not so much as a capful of experience or talent to bring to the table. I was as raw as a carrot in a roadside vegetable stand. I like to say, and there is some truth to it, I didn’t become a real girl (like Pinnochio) until I was fifty. That’s when some of the lessons I’d been given finally began to stick to the wall.

I have a huge repertoire of mistakes and wrong turns tucked away in my bag. I don’t carry them around with me anymore. I have already made my amends as best I could and put them away in my pile of lessons learned and promises broken. Each day I am given the opportunity to be better than I was the day before. I strive for that goal. Understand me, I often fall short, but I give myself at A for effort if I fall, and try to do better on the next day.

They say, though I don’t know for sure, that learning to love ourselves is the number one challenge in our lives. I know for me it wasn’t always easy. At this age I have found a comfortable spot in my own skin I call home and this is a good thing. In the process, I have come to love as well that little chubby girl who once greeted me in the mirror in the morning, so she can be at peace inside me. One thing I have learned through all this is to have compassion for the people around me. We are all human beings struggling to understand our world, our environments, the person sleeping on the pillow next to us, those who brought us into the world, those we brought into the world and most of all ourselves. I think of this a lot today because of the horrible tragedy going on in Florida with the condominium collapse. It is a striking example of the fragility of our lives. Makes you want to really appreciate the day and fill it with special people and happy moments.

So, on this rather introspective day, I send you a hug if you need one, or wish you a special dinner with someone you love, or a day at the beach with your kids or your dog, whatever makes your heart smile.

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This is such an odd time for me. I’m finding it difficult to concentrate in the little things because of the heavier issues dominating my life at the moment. This morning I put a spoonful of coconut sugar in the bottom of my coffee mug as I always do, then reached in the refrigerator for the creamer and filled my cup to the brim. Taking that first sip of the day, my tastebuds quickly sent out an alert “911 no caffeine detected”. Duh.

Had to make a Costco run early on. I try to get there before the rest of the crush of humanity with the same idea in mind shows up. I believe one would have to arrive when the store is closed in order to find the parking lot uncrowded. People were already waiting outside at ten minutes before the store was due to open. I found myself squeezed in the middle of a small crowd, poised expectantly, with my hands curled over the bar of my shopping cart. I resisted the urge to shuffle my feet and whinny. When they opened the doors everyone surged forward. Suddenly, it felt like I was running with the bulls at Pamplona. I flashed my membership card as I was propelled by the employee checking them at the door. What a zoo. It’s usually bad, but usually not that bad. I assume it was because this weekend is a holiday. I love shopping at Costco. It’s sort of like a massive toy store for adults. They don’t really have toy stores anymore, or I haven’t seen one since Toys R Us bit the dust. As a kid, toy stores were a big deal for me. Rows of dolls, skates, bikes, and games. Loved it. My mom would give me my allowance every week. What I didn’t spend on candy and junk, went into my piggy bank. When I’d amassed enough cold hard cash to put toward something I coveted, my mom would pitch in the rest and we would head to the toy store to pick out a treat. For me, it was dolls all the way. I played with dolls until the summer between seventh and eighth grade. I probably would have continued to this day, except my best friend and I were playing with Barbies on the back porch when two neighbor boys heard us interacting and called us babies in front of a group of kids. Secretly, I still took the old girl out of her case from time to time until I got into high school when Ken was replaced by an actual live replica.

Today wasn’t a big shopping day. I don’t buy a lot at Costco anymore, because you have to buy in such huge amounts. With just two of us eating here on a normal day, twelve pounds of cheddar cheese really isn’t a practical purchase. I’ve been using the same olive oil I bought at Costco since 2001, and I’m finally down to the last bottle. I was delighted to find the familiar free food stands were back in business inside. I used to make lunch out of it while cruising up and down the aisles. Food has really gone up since the pandemic. There was a package of short ribs I picked up that had a label reading $47.52. Wow. Maybe beef will end up being a true luxury down the road. Cows seem to be trouble in a lot of venues lately. I understand their burping and manure are largely contributing to the global warming situation by creating an over abundance of methane gas. Hard to believe our planet could be poised in a downhill spiral due to cattle flatulence. I didn’t see that one coming, and don’t remember finding any reference to it in Revelations.

Surveying the rest of the meat counter, hamburger prices looked more like roast prices used to. I came across a package of impossible burgers. Reminded me of my oldest granddaughter, a fervent vegan. Nothing that has a parent crosses her lips. She has been trying to get me to embrace these impossible burgers . The few times I’ve tried these burger wantabes, I can’t say they’ve satisfied my need for beef. However, over the weekend Dale and I and several friends drove up to Truckee for lunch. Truckee is a touristy town outside of Lake Tahoe. While there, we had lunch at an old restaurant up on the hill offering up a gorgeous view of the town and the valley below from their deck. Their menu, though including meat items, really leans toward vegetarian. I had eggs Benedict, for instance, and the Hollandaise was made with truffles and served over arugula on an English muffin. It was delicious, but not the standard presentation for that menu item in my experience. Dale ordered the impossible burger. When it arrived, it looked a bit like it had been baked in a crematorium. Totally charred on the outside, we all kind of watched as he took his first bite, assuming it would send it back. Surprise, surprise he loved it. Apparently, they had added black beans and garlic to amp up the taste. Before long only a few ashy remains were left on his plate.

Already I do a lot of meatless meals, such as pasta, salads, and eggs. Eggs are another red flag for me when it comes to a vegan lifestyle, eggs are not included. Can’t do it. I have yet to meet an egg I didn’t like. Again, I don’t buy my eggs at Costco because a) you have to chance hypothermia in the refrigeration room to get eggs, and b) you have to buy a flat. If I brought all those eggs home, they would be the only thing other than the condiments in the door that would fit in there.

By the time I got back to the car and opened my trunk there were five cars lined up waiting to grab my spot. I got Dale situated, then began to load the groceries. One lady kept putting her hands up in the air. What? They didn’t put things in bags and they were out of boxes, so I had to load them in groups of as many as I could carry. I wanted to say, “Lady, If you want to use those hands in a more constructive way, step out of your vehicle and help me”. I’m just sayin. Dale isn’t able to do as much these days, so a lot of the loading/unloading falls to me. I’m not complaining at all, it’s certainly not his fault. I’m just stating a fact.

Dale is on oxygen 24/7. This is not a new experience for me, Rick was also on oxygen, but it is for him. He doesn’t like it. I don’t like it either. Didn’t like it back then, and it hasn’t grown on me any more since that time. They brought the tanks in after our ER visit on Memorial Day. The tech showed up with all this equipment after we arrived home. It was after seven in the evening, we hadn’t eaten, and were both brain dead. Dale, because he’s been prodded and probed, all day, and me because I just spent nine hours trying to find a comfortable spot in the chairs they provide for visitors in hospitals. The tech, who completely understands the workings of the tanks and compressor, gave us a quick run through on how we’re going to operate all this intricate equipment after he leaves. Hello? The following morning, of course, neither of could remember one word he said. Dumb and Dumber, the Sequel. Soooooo, I had to call them and have them resend a tech to give us a refresher course. They said this is totally common, particularly if their clients have just left a hospital environment. K. Even after a month we still screw up. Yesterday, we took two tanks with us as backups only to find out neither were filled. Sigh. You’d think I’d remember all this from before, but I think I’d effectively erased that part of my memory bank.

Huh?

At any rate, we returned home unbeaten and unscathed. Yay. Each day is a gift. You have to find joy where you can and refer to happy times often to refill your tanks.

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If I were to narrow down my list of pet peeves (yes, I do have a list) to just two, they would have to be procrastination and being late. Essentially they fall under the same umbrella, but each trait also exhibits its own separate nuances. To break it down further, it would be those individuals perpetually late for everything, and and those people I refer to as dawdlers. My mother is both. When she used to suggest a shopping trip beginning at 10:00 a.m., you could pretty much plan on leaving the house around noon. Even when we did finally exit the door, she would make several trips back inside to retrieve her sunglasses or check once again to see if she’d “locked up”. Drove me right straight up the wall. I am a lot of things, but on the good side of the tally book, I am punctual. When I have an appointment at 1:15, I leave the house with enough time to cover my driving time to my destination plus an additional 15 minutes to spare in case I get stuck in traffic or whatever. Rick, when still with me, would leave the house at 1:13 for a 1:15 appointment, drive like a complete lunatic, and still arrive fifteen minutes late. This, I would find stressful.

Being late occasionally is part of life, things come up, unexpected delays occur beyond your control. However, being late for every event scheduled on your calendar, I believe to be a lifestyle choice. I think it’s a mindset that says “my time is more important than yours”. When I am planning a dinner party and ask my guests to arrive at 4:30 for appetizers and drinks I have set that time because my meal planning revolves around it. If appetizers are at 4:30 and dinner at 6;00 and you decide to walk in the door at 5:50, obviously something is going to be cold. Simply saying sorry every time you show up an hour or two late does not give you the green light to continue the behavior or make it okay.

Once I had a friend who was constantly getting fired for arriving late for work. He simply could not understand what the big deal was if his start time was 8:00 and he showed up at, say, 8:45, 9:00. I tried to explain to him that when an employer sets a work schedule from 9-5 he needs his employees there during that specific time period. What if you were a receptionist in a company who’s posted hours were 9-5? At 9:00, the phones began ringing or clients had begun to line up in the lobby, and there you are at 9:15 sitting in Starbucks enjoying a caramel frappuccino. It interested me he could not wrap his mind around that concept. He felt, his life, his rules. Be nice if it worked that way, but rules were put in place to create some sort of order out of chaos, and that is the world we humans exist in. Unless that changes in the near future, he will continue to be filling out job applications.

Imagine a world without rules or structure. It sounds freeing and wonderful but would it be? People would be driving through intersections coming from both directions without benefit of lights or stop signs. It would be perfectly fine to walk into someone’s home, help yourself to a sandwich from their refrigerator, and leave with their TV set under your arm, because there would be no law in place saying there would be any consequence for engaging in such behavior. Laws force us to be civil, even when sometimes we might not choose to be. Worries me when I hear of the new Texas legislation allowing citizens to carry firearms openly without benefit of licensing or instruction. We are already experiencing a crisis in this country when it comes to mass shootings, or shootings in general. The reasoning is people will act responsibly. If that were true, we wouldn’t be having a crisis, yes?

There’s no denying rules are annoying at times. Particularly with the pandemic we just survived. Rules for this and more rules for that. The truth is rules don’t always apply fairly to everyone either. For example, my mother’s taxes got mixed up a few years ago. Now understand, she is both elderly and suffers with dementia. The IRS has been relentless in their pursuit of this issue, even though it was simply a misunderstanding in filing, and not a purposeful oversight. The money, in fact, is not owed just incorrectly noted on the form. I have my accountant talking to them. I told him to stress her medical limitations and age and also, as my mother would be the first to acknowledge, orange is definitely not in her color palette. Funny isn’t it, how those three innocent little letters I, R and S that hold no malice whatsoever while standing on their own, when strung together in that order can create immediate fear in the hearts of a U.S. citizen. We are talking a relatively small amount of money at issue here, at least in the scheme of things. In their coffers even if it was owed it really is a drop in the community bucket. This really gets under my skin when I think of huge corporations such as Amazon (which after the Pandemic I feel like I am an investor in), that pay no taxes whatsoever on the massive monies they rake in every second of the day. Seriously, something needs to be done to change this dynamic. The fact the richest 10% of the households in the world hold 88% of the wealth is absolutely mind blowing.

Anyhow, enough politics for the moment, back to the subject at hand. If I continue,I shall start to pace, and then I might actually begin to feeeel my blood pressure rise.

Along with feeling a pattern of lateness to be more than a bit self focused, I also attribute it to poor time management habits. This also slops over onto dawdling. Dawdlers, at least the ones in my life, find ten other things to do when they set out to do one task. While walking to the kitchen to wash a coffee cup, they stop to pet the cat, pick up the newspaper and scan the crossword puzzle to fill in one additional box, fold the pile of laundry on the footstool, and crochet a couple of rows on the afghan they are working on. By the time they get to the kitchen they can’t remember what brought them there in the first place. I have one friend who will take two hours to get a meal ready to go in the oven. Easily distracted, she might go to the cupboard to get some chervil and end up sitting there on a chair rearranging the entire spice shelf before returning to the meal she was preparing. This person is also hyper meticulous. Each task is done with minute attention to every detail. When preparing a bunch of asparagus, she snips each little leafy frond off the stalk. If I took the time to do that kind of maintenance on my vegetables, I would have to start preparing dinner before breakfast and we could plan on eating around midnight.

We all have our personality hiccoughs. I have a growing list of mine. You’d think as you get older, you’d scratch some off, but it seems as one sloughs off another one pops up to take it’s place.

Looking back, I can see I tended to gravitate towards men who were late. My ex-husband, David, was rarely late for work as I remember, but always late for social engagements. I had a dear friend who passed away at forty-two. Danny was one of my favorite people on the planet, so when the invitation came to attend his funeral there was no way I was going to miss it. The ceremony was to take place at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Covina Hills in Southern California. Covina Hills was located about two hours from where we lived at the time in Redondo Beach. For those of you not familiar with the facility, it is a sprawling operation covering a huge piece of hilly acreage. There are numerous chapels and buildings on the property, as well as locations to inter your loved ones both above and below ground. The morning of the funeral, I was ready at the time we’d set to leave. Southern California is a snake’s nest of freeways. It can be highly unpredictable when it comes to delays or amount of traffic. David was just stepping out of the shower when we were supposed to be getting in the car. Finally, now a half an hour late, we were backing out of the driveway after three or four return trips to the house for things he had forgotten like his wallet, car keys, and watch. I was watching the time get completely away from us and hoping not to walk into the chapel while the service was in progress. As usual, the glut of traffic was evident as we merged from one crowded freeway onto the next. By the time we finally approached the gate at Forest Lawn, we were nearly forty-five minutes behind schedule. After giving her Dan’s name, the woman at the gate looked up the chapel where the service was to be held and handed us a map. Whew. Forest Lawn was as mind boggling as the freeways we’d just left behind us. After winding around this way and that we located what we thought to be the right building. Yay. Quietly, we entered through the back door and sat in the very back row. Someone was already speaking at the podium who I did not recognize. Settling in and taking a breath, I looked around the room. There was not one familiar face present that I could see in any row. Huh. I whispered this to David who put his finger to his lips to say “shhhhh”. K. The more I looked around, the more I became convinced we were not in the right funeral. “Where’s the family”, I whispered? Again with the finger to the lips. Now I have a personality quirk, if you will. When I get nervous, I sometime laugh at inappropriate times. Suddenly the idea that we were sitting in a strangers memorial service pulled the trigger on that tic. It began as a giggle in the back of my throat, and quickly was escalating. David was looking at me as if I was about ten marbles short of a game. Not knowing how to shut me up, as people had begun to turn around, he wrapped his arm around my head and placed his hand over my mouth. At the same time we stood up in tandem and backed out of the chapel. Good Lord. Exit stage right.

Outside, I couldn’t get hold of myself. Fortunately, Danny was known for his wicked sense of humor so somehow I knew he was perched a cloud somewhere overhead getting a real charge out of the scene I just made. Back in the car, we returned to the gate and once again the lady directed us to where we had just been. Really? When I mentioned the family, she told me they would have been seated to the right and most likely couldn’t be seen from the back of the church. Sigh. The walk of shame once again. Back we went, and back in the back row we sat. People were openly staring now. The humiliation seemed to keep the laughter at bay. Turned out, the people we were looking at were work friends who we wouldn’t have know anyhow. Fortunately, everybody but David, got a big kick out of it. The wake really was a celebration of a life well lived. So many people came up and introduced themselves and said “oh, you’re the one”. Yup, that would be me. I still smile every time I think about it, like I am right now.

Happy Tuesday. Laugh at yourself from time to time. Life can be so serious.

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Last night was a restless one for me. It culminated with an unsettling dream that woke me up out of a druggy kind of sleep about 4 a.m. In this dream, I was walking along a beautiful strand of beach. My mind recognized it as Laguna Beach, a beach in Southern California I frequented often as a teen and young adult. The dunes of sand rose steeply upward, creating a long sloping ridge which culminated at a sidewalk high above. To get to level ground, meant first traversing the slope. The sand looked particularly coarse, more the consistency of brown sugar than normal beach sand might appear. Each time I attempted to climb up that slope, I would make it about half way, then slide back down to the bottom. Was I to attempt to analyze my dream, having no expertise in the field whatsoever, I’d take a guess perhaps this speaks to the one step forward three steps back feeling I’ve been having of late. I know it’s two steps back in the original saying, but in my case three feels more accurate. Finally, after pushing forward using everything I had, I made it to street level. Standing there on the pavement, strangers passed by on either side of me. No one acknowledged me, and I, in turn, didn’t acknowledge them. Somehow I realized I had no car, and I knew I was very far from home. Starting to wonder how I would ever find my way back, I woke myself up. I must have been a very deep sleep state, for when I awoke it felt like I was in a dense fog. My eyes were open, but my brain remained firmly planted in “sleep mode”.

No matter how dire the situation, I am a creature of routine. Once I’m awake, I use the bathroom, brush my teeth, and then head for the kitchen to push brew on the coffee maker. Was the house on fire, I believe this is so embedded in my DNA, the smell of fresh coffee brewing would be the first thing firefighters noticed on entering the building. This morning I was wandering about after my dream like a drunk trying to get out of his own way the morning after. Even the cat was giving me a wide berth, instead of winding about my legs as she usually does. The house is at full capacity at the moment, with people in every room. Being a rather petite dwelling, it was really built to accommodate one or two. When you add additional bodies to the mix, it means if you are running water in the kitchen, most likely someone trying to sleep in an adjacent room is pulling a pillow over their heads. When I am trying to be quiet, it is often the exact time I manage to make the most noise. Why is that? Perhaps it is a natural occurrence in nature? Of course, it could be it is just me. I do know when I’m trying to keep the noise level at a minimum, it is when things to go to hell in a hand basket around here. First, I opened the cupboard above my washing machine for some unknown reason. Many of my cleaning products such as bathroom sprays, room deodorizers etc. are housed there. Certainly I have never stored the coffee next to my toilet cleaner. Each cupboard in my house is like a Chinese puzzle because I have more stuff than storage, and this one is no exception. Why I was standing there like an idiot looking into this particular cupboard trying to locate the coffee defies explanation. I moved one thing to the side, just one little box. Uh-oh. The entire pyramid of cans above it came tumbling out of the cupboard bouncing with a resounding, bing, bang, boom off the washer lid before landing solidly one after another on the tile. One of the caps had even popped off and was rolling around in a circle like a top. Oops. I can’t be sure, but I believe I heard a muffled expletive uttered somewhere in the house with my name attached to it. Sorry.

Another annoying thing about sharing digs with me I’m sure, is I’m up with the roosters, if not before. Actually, the roosters text me asking for a wake up call. I work on this, I try to do better, but my mind has a 4 a.m. set wake up time and I can’t seem to adjust the dial. God knows I’ve given it my best. Seriously, trains could set their schedules by my internal clock. If someone is staying at the house and I decide to catch an early morning program, I use the closed captioning feature so as not to disturb. No matter what, and it seems only when someone is sleeping elsewhere in the house, I turn the TV power on to find the sound set on 56. My neighbors two doors down could follow what I’m watching. Frantically, I then struggle to mute the darn thing, but assuredly someone in the house has just levitated off their mattress before I find the button. Again, sorry.

Finally, this morning I located the coffee. Surprise, I located the coffee where I keep the coffee and coffee supplies and have since I moved in. Who knew? Definitely, some caffeine was needed at that point. Pushing brew I turned to go back in the bedroom. As I walked past the sink I noticed the pot still sitting in there. That would be the coffee pot, yes. I knew I had poured the water in before activating the brew cycle. Turning, I could see the coffee was happily pouring out onto the counter with the grounds floating on top of it. Yay. Now, I was swearing. Cleaning up coffee grounds is like trying to pick up a greased pig. You just get a firm hold of them and then they slip away. Even found some stuck to the bottom of my sock. At last I managed to pour new water in the trough, put the filter in the proper receptacle, add coffee, and brew a pot. Good Lord.

My stomach began to growl. Not wanting to make any more noise, I thought of boiled eggs. Protein always get my motor primed in the morning. A couple of soft boiled eggs and a piece of wheat toast sounded like what I needed to get things moving in a forward direction, and raise me out of my stupor. Taking out my small saucepan, I boiled some water and dropped two lovely large eggs in it. Reaching for my chicken timer on the counter, I set it for four minutes. Hearing my cellphone go off in the bedroom, I padded off to see who was calling so early. I answered in my “inside voice”. A friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while was calling to check up on things and see how Dale was doing. As I mentioned in a previous blog, my partner Dale, is dealing with a cancer diagnosis at the moment. Getting involved in the conversation, I completely forgot I had put the eggs on to boil. Yup. In about a half an hour the smoke alarms began to go off. What the…..? Ah so, a light went off in an otherwise dark tunnel. Inside the tunnel a sign was illuminated that read simply “the eggs are boiling”. Insert expletive here. Flying into the kitchen I found the ashen remains of what had once been two large white eggs most likely permanently fused to the bottom of the pan. Ach. By the time I managed to quiet the third alarm, good news, everyone was up now. All four were standing before me, not any one of them wearing their happy faces. Good morning!!

Truly, had I set out to make as much noise as possible, I really couldn’t have done a better job. Well, other than if I’d set up a Chinese gong in the hallway and began pounding away on that, or invited the Marine Corp Band to practice in the living room. Sigh. I do try, I really do.

Last night in the middle of the night, I woke up to the feeling my life no longer looked familiar to me. This, I’m sure is because of all the turmoil going on in it at the moment. Undoubtedly this chaos contributed to the weird dreams I was having as well.

Some days you simply need to go back to bed and remain there until the dark cloud passes overhead. One has to hold on to sunny outcomes even if the sky is dark and rain seems imminent. Tomorrow, thankfully, is another day and I will do better. I know this to be true. Happy Friday to you.

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