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Holidays, when you’ve lost a loved one, can prove very difficult. I am so grateful this Thanksgiving I was surrounded by my family and their families on Thanksgiving Day. I’m sure for those grieving a loss alone, the added pain of everybody celebrating around them can be almost unbearable. I have made great strides since Rick has passed. Fourteen months have come and gone and each day I find more strength and purpose returning to my life. This does not mean I still don’t stumble, I do.  Yesterday for example, Black Friday, was a difficult one. The turkey now eaten and leftovers tucked away in the fridge, left me drifting about the house with Boo, the Queen of Cats, wondering what to busy myself with. I try not to always clutter up my days with “doing”. Sometimes it is important to sit with your feelings while they are stewing and work your way through them. However, yesterday I needed air and people around me so I headed for the stores looking for a way to keep my mind occupied.

Expecting the usual crush of holiday shoppers littering the aisles I was pleasantly surprised to find only an average amount of shoppers milling about making it painless to select the first Christmas presents I’ve purchased this season.  In one store, the bank of extra cashiers ready to ring up holiday customer’s orders were lined up along the check out aisle beckoning customers to their stalls like barkers at a sideshow. Interesting.  Guess everybody was busy filling their carts on line. Makes me wonder if someday there will be no stores to shop in, with everything being done with the click of a mouse. I hope not. I am an old dog, I guess. I like to hold my book and read it, turning the pages as I go. I want to feel the fabric and explore the fit of a bathrobe before purchasing it, and I enjoy the lively conversations and colorful Christmas goodies displayed in the stores. Woof.

Although change is always a process, change life will, and continue to do so. Either you hop on board and change with it or the train will pull out of the station and you’ll still be standing on the platform. A lot of my friends are still circling their computers trying to figure out what makes them tick. They approach their laptops like a haz-mat team might creep up on a ticking box. Because I have quite a bit of experience in my pocket I have become sort of the It-Girl for my friends still working on the difference between portrait and landscape. Thankfully I have kept up with my skills for the most part so as things changed I moved forward with them keeping me somewhat “fresh” with the new technology. Um, with one exception I’m afraid, phones. Even my best friend who still had a flip phone until the beginning of this year now has an IPhone she devotes a great deal of her time to. I have one response when asked why I am so stubborn about this, “I don’t wanta”.

I suppose at some point I will cave pitifully and get myself a smart phone. There is something intimidating about having a hand held device that is so much more intelligent than you are. Next I will be on a first name basis with Siri not listening to anyone around me anymore except her soothing voice. I watch in fascination as my friends speak to her in their phones asking advice about everything from directions to where the best deals on toilet paper can be found. Some, I have observed, seem to have an uncomfortably personal attachment to these digital beings which at times can make my skin feel a little squirrely.

Over Thanksgiving dinner we older adults were discussing with the younger members of our clan what life was like when phones were still attached to the wall. When your ability to walk around with it attached to your ear was directly controlled by the length of the cord you purchased for it when you picked it out at the phone store. Mouth agape they stared at us as if we had just landed and walked down the ramp with ET. When I went on to explain we didn’t have APPS, voicemail, personal computers, video games, and only limited channels on the TV I swear one of them crossed himself.

To further shock these young beings, in particular the girls, I explained that if you wanted to do your hair you didn’t just plug in your blow dryer and curling iron. Oh no. You washed it, rolled it in curlers and either endeavored to sleep on the miserable things generally finding them all over your bed in the morning or plugged in a portable hair dryer and sat underneath it until your hair was dry.

Looking back so much has changed over the years. When my children were born there were no seat belts. Kids floated about in the car roaming from front to back, sticking their heads out of the windows, or sitting on your lap and helping you drive. Amazing we ever made it this far.

So, we look toward another year. This one should be interesting. With everything going on in the political arena certainly this may prove to be a fascinating time to be a fly on the wall for an election. I don’t usually get political in my blogs leaving it to others to sling mud where they may, however I would hope we breathe some dignity back into our government. My relatives in Canada tell me we have become the source of many jokes up there and I’m sure that rings in true all over the world. Time to clean this up and restore some civility to our world.

For my part I’m still trying to figure out who I am as this new person evolves from the ashes of my old life. The new year is both exciting and a little intimidating. I know I have to go back to work which makes me want to go in the closet with a bag of fiery Cheetos and pull a blanket over my head, but a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.

Hope your holiday was special. Most of you are heading home today or out in the stores frantically trying to scratch names off that holiday list. Take a breath, enjoy the spirit of the season. There is much to be thankful for.

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I got my hair done today in preparation for the holiday. You learn so much while sitting the salon chair. The girl next to me was getting the works done, hair, makeup and nails for her bachelorette party on Friday. The lady behind me had just lost forty pounds and was having her hair dyed in celebration of the weight loss. It’s not that I purposely eavesdrop, but the chairs are huddled together in a circle so conversations sort of hover in the air. Emily, my hair dresser, was telling me she has to attend three Thanksgivings every year. Seems her in-laws parted ways a decade ago in what was a contentious divorce. Each party has since remarried. So, Emily, her husband and three little ones go to dinner at her mother-in-law and her new husband’s home the weekend before Thanksgiving, then have dinner with her father-in-law and his new wife on the big day, followed up by a big celebration with Em’s family at home the weekend after. On Christmas this is repeated only with her family receiving top billing. After listening to her I was exhausted. I hope she has “fat pants” for the occasion. That’s a lot of turkey.

When Rick was with me we had turkey on Thanksgiving going with an alternate choice for Christmas such as prime rib or lamb. One year we even had lobster, a nod to my Canadian roots, which was totally decadent and delicious. For Rick, like many  people from what I understand, turkey was not at the top of his favorites list. I’m kind of with my mom in that I like turkey but view it more as a vessel for the stuffing to reside in and not the star of the meal. My day after turkey sandwich however, is a show stopper. Mayo, cranberry sauce, stuffing and turkey with a little salt and pepper. Yum and yum.

The tree will come out of the shed this week along with the sea of red and green bins in which all my decorations are housed. Last year being my first Christmas on my own was somewhat less than jolly, but I have regained some of my holiday spirit this year and am looking forward to putting up all my familiar holiday goodies on the day after turkey day. This is tradition for me, and in keeping with my traditions the day after Christmas they will once again be taken down. I know many people keep theirs up until New Years Day but by the time Christmas is in the bag, if you will, I am done with twinkling lights and wrapping paper. By then I am ready to put my feet up, have some hot chocolate, and take a rest before having to look at the upcoming year.  Some people still have their house lights on well into spring.  Others leave them up year round. Can’t decide whether they are just too lazy to take them down or they really, really, really like the holidays. I have one friend who left her tree up until it was nearly time to turn on the air conditioning.

Used to be a time I wouldn’t have entertained the thought of having an artificial tree. Always I insisted on having a fresh tree to have all the piney aromas in my living room. Flocked trees were my favorite, the type with the real clumped snow look to them that leave a trail of white all over your house both coming and going. I used to keep a lint brush by the front door for visitors who dared to venture to close. On several Christmases we took the children to the mountains to the tree farm. There’s something visceral about using an axe to cut the tree down then driving home singing Christmas carols with the tree tied to the roof of your car. Perhaps it’s left over from when our ancestors dragged home a kill to the hungry villagers.

Finally the weather is catching up with the season here in Northern California. People have been running around in shorts and tee shirts up until several days ago. The first snow is due in the mountain areas over the weekend. I am thankful to be down the hill from snow country this year. As beautiful as the world looks when the snowflakes begin to pile up on the tree boughs, driving in the aftermath is a pain and getting out of the steep driveway in my old house was downright dangerous to my well being. I’ve heard where I am in the lower foothills is occasionally dusted. An occasional snowfall is most welcome. The terrain is flat from here to my car where I live now, so I am far less likely to end up on my face. Twice while up in Grass Valley I went out to the car in the morning only to end up on my behind on the front porch. Now I am not against a good dance once and a while, but not before my coffee, in frigid weather, and definitely not when airborne.

Retailers are beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Unbelievably in the stores I found the Halloween 50% sale items on the shelf with Santa and his entourage. Maybe they should just combine the holidays having Santa riding in a pumpkin, eating a turkey leg?  They certainly don’t waste much time. Some of the Black Friday items were already on sale weeks ago. Pretty soon we’ll be celebrating it after Labor Day. I have so far bought one present and December 25th is one month away.  Though I love to be able to give to my loved ones it can be so stressful trying to figure out what to give and traversing the packed stores and endless lines. Most probably most of my shopping will be done on line. This year will be our little guys second Christmas. Viewing all this wonderment through his eyes will be exciting. That experience I am looking forward to the most. Also, we are blessed my mother is still with us. So many things to be thankful for besides what is wrapped under the tree.s

On a side note, I took my first clay modeling class yesterday. I have been trying to get into such a class since 1988. One thing or another always seemed to block my way. The class was three hours. That seemed like a long time when I signed up but have to say it went by so quickly when I was told it was time to hang up my apron for the day I was disappointed. How fun it was to learn something new and get my hands all gooey in the process. I made a snowman and a bowl which I shall show you once they’re glazed and fired.

Have a great day. Take a chance to learn something new or teach someone else something they haven’t experienced.

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The time has come to begin searching for a part-time job. God knows I’ve avoided it successfully as long as I can. Money needs to start coming in as well as going out or this boat is going to spring a few leaks down the road. Not that I’m allergic to work, I’ve worked most of my life, I just don’t hate not having to. Ah well, we do what we need to do to sustain ourselves, yes?

An email showed up in my in box yesterday from a social media website I’m a member of. They were alerting me to the fact there is an opening for a social media director for one of the NFL teams I might be a good candidate for. Really, in what universe would that be? If I’m qualified for that job why not try something new like, say, brain surgeon or perhaps I could apply to NASA for a neuroscientist position? I do enjoy watching those rockets plummeting into space. How hard can it be a little rocket fuel and a match? Let’s see, with all the candidates running for president at the moment would anyone even notice another hat tossed in the ring? Why not go for the gold? As far as I can tell I’m probably as qualified as most of the people in Washington at the moment so why not?

Updating my resume it occurred to me my graphic arts background isn’t really going to hold a lot of weight if I’m stocking shelves at the Dollar Store or wrapping up purchases at Penny’s. Probably their HR departments won’t be overly impressed by the fact that not only can I bag the items for the customer, but I can draw them a rendition of the bag if needed.

Utilizing my graphics or writing skills while earning a paycheck would be the ideal situation. Unfortunately, these types of jobs are often full time positions with plenty of overtime, which I’m not looking for, or the hiring bodies are targeting younger candidates who can remain in place longer than a baby boomer such as myself.

Over the years I have assumed many identities in the working world. I began as a secretary, clerk really, for a moving company. An eighteen year old girl green as a gourd working with a bunch of rough around the edges movers in a large combination warehouse and office. I earned my stripes there. The men were respectful for the most part, as I remember. However, the dispatcher working directly across the aisle from me had a mouth like a sailor. When things weren’t going his way the air was alive with words my grandmother would have washed my mouth out for repeating. I remember once the warehouse manager came to me to tell me the ladies, of which there were four of us, needed to be alerted there were crabs in the women’s washroom. Until the situation was resolved, we were instructed to use the men’s room. Fascinated there were live crabs on the premises, I asked if perhaps I could see them. Stepping a bit further into the humiliation pit I went on to explain though I enjoyed crabs, I actually preferred lobster having grown up in Nova Scotia. Yup, fully immersed in the pit of humiliation at that point. After staring at me in disbelief for a minute he broke out in hysterical laughter. For the next two years I had to hear the crabs story repeated more times than I care to remember. Back then if asked about an STD I might have answered “isn’t that motor oil”? Yes, yes I know it’s STP.

My second job was for a huge engineering company working as a secretary to one of the junior VP’s. My desk was one of a bank of desks and executive offices referred to by the staff as “mahogany row”. Things were much different in those days. Women wore dresses, heels, and nylons to work. Pants were not allowed on the ladies. Men were encouraged to wear them thankfully, there are laws against that. Pants suits made an appearance not long afterwards, though I wouldn’t have missed them if they hadn’t. Polyester nightmares with matching jacket and pants usually suffering from static cling or just basic bad taste. There were no casual Friday’s. Women were to be dressed accordingly five days a week even if their toes were sacrificed to tight pointy toed shoes or their bodies circulation diminished by suffocating pantyhose. Mini skirts were also on the scene at the time. Accessing a filing cabinet wearing that minimal piece of fabric required real finesse necessitating squatting down rather than bending over the file drawers lest you provide a distraction for the engineers on the floor. The campus I worked on consisted of five multi-story buildings, mainly staffed by male engineers, draftsmen, and support staff. Women engineers were tossed in among the mix but certainly were a small minority. Often the ladies with the engineering degrees were difficult to sort out from the gentlemen. They tended to dress in a very understated way bordering on dowdy to maintain a businesslike persona. I was told by one female engineer they dressed down in order to be accepted by their male colleagues. I could write volumes about how I feel about that, but I digress.

Part of my job description was generating travel paperwork for engineers and staff reporting to our overseas operations as well as the Alaskan pipeline and South America. Shots were required when entering certain foreign countries as well as the typical government documents such as visas and passports. If needed quickly, I would hop a plane from LA to San Francisco to visit the embassy’s involved to get paperwork moved through as expediently as possible. For me, this was the whipped cream topping of my job. Entering the exotic offices staffed by people from lands I had never visited was fascinating to me. There were times when I wished they were placing official stamps on my documents so I could board the plane as well.

Certainly my dream as a child was not to be typing engineering reports or transfer papers. Sometimes life doesn’t look the way you thought it would. As a kid my mind was filled with Egypt, oddly leading me to end up with Rick an Egyptian by birth. Daydreams of dusty digs in steamy desert settings uncovering long buried tombs with ancient artifacts filled my days. As I approached puberty, my career goals shifted to include nurse, like my grandmother, and circus clown and in high school I decided I wanted to fly the friendly skies as a flight attendant. In the end, I got married at eighteen, had two children by twenty-one and found myself seated in front of an electric typewriter pounding keys for a living. I don’t regret this for an instant because was I to create a paradox in my world and change things my two beautiful children wouldn’t share my life nor their offspring so I wouldn’t change a thing.

I view each experience as a building block to the next. Had I not taken typing in high school simply to fill an elective spot, I might have been pushing biggie fries at McDonald’s. Not that that’s a bad job. I think anyone who works hard in whatever position they hold should be commended. However hindsight being 20-20 I do wish at times I had enjoyed the full college experience when I had the opportunity to but as I always quote, “don’t look in the rear view mirror, that is not the direction you are going”.

So I look at working once again and still find myself pondering what I want to be when I grow up. Working with food might be interesting. Standing behind the deli counter at the market slicing meats and cheeses seems like it would be right up my alley. My girlfriend always tells me I would have make a good waitress. I like the idea of serving people meals, as being in the kitchen or around food is my happy place. That being said, having owned a restaurant with Rick I do know first hand how difficult waiting tables is. Long hours, poor tippers, complaining patrons, and sore feet. Hmmmm. Maybe a mermaid? I’ve never been one but always felt I had the predisposition for it, and how I do love the water.

For now I will scan the on-line sites advertising local jobs and see what catches my eye. Fortunately I’ve kept my computer skills up so I have something to offer in that area.

Another new chapter to explore in my crazy interesting life. I do look forward to finding out what the next year will bring with it.

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I attend a weekly therapy session. People often hesitate to admit they have pursued this avenue of treatment. To my mind, never be afraid to say you need help in whatever form. If you have a virus you make a doctor’s appointment. No different. When your mind needs guidance to sort through whatever it is you are experiencing seeking professional assistance seems the logical step to take.

After two years of office visits my therapist and I have shared a lot of information with one another. A certain bond forms with a person you give large chunks of your life over to and such is the case here. Laura is a woman slightly younger than myself, single like me, an only child having lost her brother, caring for an aging mother. There you go. My sister from another mister.

Most therapists have therapists. I’ve often felt if you go into this particular field of practice perhaps you may have creases you need to iron out yourself. Many times I’ve thought of hanging out my shingle when I have been thrust into the position of doling out solicited advice to friends and family.

During yesterday’s session I was discussing how many things have broken down over the past month, including me. Since October made itself known one thing after the other has fallen apart. She shared with me many of her patients have been complaining of the same occurrences, one person even relating a theory there is some sort of global karmic event in progress. Really? Oh-oh. Karma is not my strong suit.

Since the first of the month my TV has gone out, I had four days without electricity, my phone mysteriously lost voicemail due to an unexplained national outage, my doorbell stopped ringing, my alarm battery supposed to last five years died as did the replacement battery sent, and last night in the middle of cooking dinner the bulbs in my overhead kitchen light flickered then died concurrently. Really? This seems like a small inconvenience, but mine is a small kitchen, one butt really. It has one light source and without it you can’t see much. I keep two bulbs in it to provide a nice warm atmosphere while I’m doing my cooking. I turned on the light in the laundry room to see what I was doing. Getting out my trusty step stool, exactly as I’ve been instructed not to do by my children, I perched precariously on the top step trying to loosen the nut holding the globe in place. Reaching up I could barely reach the nut to turn it. Once the nut was off the globe should have easily been removed. Not this month. I gently turned and maneuvered it over and over never achieving the desired result. Peering through my blinds I could see my landlord’s truck in his driveway. Hating to admit defeat, I texted a quick note explaining I was too stupid too replace a light bulb, please send help. Sounded like the old pollock joke. Sorry, hope I didn’t offend anybody of Polish ancestry. Shortly there was a knock at the door. There had to be a knock, why? Yes, that’s right because the doorbell doesn’t work.

It turned out there was a twist (no pun intended) to the light situation. An extra nut had been screwed on for some unknown reason and was holding the globe in place. Thank God I wasn’t as stupid as I looked. Whew. Dodged that bullet. After replacing the two bulbs he let me know he’d be over this morning to take a look at the electrical outlet in the living room that had also gone south. Suddenly I had a mental picture of appliances and devices rising up against their human tormentors. Out of control IPhones with cracked faces and old discarded Kindles chasing down unsuspecting townspeople. Sort of an all out electronic revolution on steroids.

Watching the news while having my coffee they announced another high wind event was going to take place which meant more PG&E enforced shutdowns. Thankfully I haven’t gotten an alert yet. Yesterday when they said there was a possibly I decided I wasn’t going to caught with my pants down like last time. First I filled my car, then stopped at the store on the way home to grab two bags of ice and some battery operated candles. I have three such candles already and two lanterns but just they don’t provide enough light once dark descends upon us. Many of my friends have purchased generators. Being here alone the idea of operating such a device when I apparently can’t even change a light bulb is a bit daunting. It’s not just plugging them in and voila. Unless you have the $9,000-$15,000 to invest in one that is automatic and will supply the entire house, the manual types involve yanking a starter such as a lawn mower might have, extension cords and frequent oil changes. Most of my friends have husbands around to help them operate these. Not that I can’t figure it out I’m sure I can, but do I want to? The answer here would be not really. One of my friends had a neighbor lose her house and everything in it to a fire caused by misusing a generator. If anyone could make that happen, it would be me. Trust me, my strengths do not lie in the workings of machines. Machines actually cover their heads when I walk by hoping to go unnoticed.

I remember when my first husband insisted on teaching me how to change a tire. The one and only time I used the information was on the way home from work on a day several months after my tire changing instruction course. Back then women wore pantyhose and heels to work. For those of you not old enough to remember pantyhose they are miserably restrictive nylon leg coverings fitting like sausage casings that you wear under your dresses. Sadly they were an improvement on the girdles and garter belts that preceded them. All of them, in my estimation, articles of torture. When the tire blew I limped the car to the side of the road. After standing there looking pitiful for ten or fifteen minutes with no prince on a valiant steed showing up, I decided to retrieve the jack out of the trunk and take care of this problem by myself. Not having perhaps given my full attention to the instructions when they were being given, I did manage to remember how to get the jack on and get the lug nuts off, the latter which I deposited in the hubcap as instructed. Steps 1 and 2. On a roll. Next, I muscled the brand spanking new tire out of the truck securing it in the spot where the old tire had been resting. Step 3. Check, check, and check. I am woman hear me roar. I could have consumed a raw rib eye at that moment. That is right up until the jack, apparently not properly secured, decided to relieve itself of it’s burden and dropped the car on one side like a wounded antelope. The impact caused the wheel to bend under the car where a part of the sharp metal around the wheel well impaled it. Hmmmm. The perfect kill. I don’t remember step 4 sounding like that. This was not going well. At that point I guess I looked sufficiently pitiful that a driver pulled over to help. Standing next to the car scratching his head he finally said, “how did you do that”? There really wasn’t a good answer. I don’t explain these things, I just do them. A tow truck was called as was my husband who oddly had exactly the same reaction as my rescuer plus several additional comments about the new tire being ruined which aren’t suitable for sharing. Bonus here. I never have been called upon since to change a tire on a car. I have been sure to relate this story at the beginning of all my relationships ensuring this remains status quo.

There are often gifts hidden in the dark corners of our lives. This year has been a learning experience for me in so many ways. Even when stumbling and falling I have managed to pick myself up and keep on going. It has been an opportunity to discover where my strengths lie and work on my weaknesses. I have found I can live alone and life continues to move forward. Does that mean I like it? No, I miss Rick every single day and our life together but there are certain unexpected freedoms afforded people who have no one to account to except themselves.

I find through the loss I have acquired a great deal of gratitude for my blessings. This lovely little house, Miss Boo the Queen of Cats, my family and friends, food in my cupboard, my health and for the most part my sanity.

What is it they say, people always worrying about what they don’t have will never be happy. Rather we should be thankful for what we do have. There is always someone out there who would view your life with outright envy. If you never have enough to make you happy, how can you ever actually find fulfillment? These are questions I ask myself when I am feeling down. Don’t always have answers but at least I’m asking the questions.

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Finally an end to a three day siege in the dark here in Northern California. Sigh. PG&E in it’s infinite wisdom decided the need has arisen to once again to shut down our electrical supply in deference to predicted winds and the parched undergrowth prevalent in our area this time of year. Perhaps if they had actually maintained their lines in a proper manner over the years, or possibly modeled our electrical system after those overseas with the wiring underground, we wouldn’t be forced to do this every time there is such a weather event.

My power went off around 3 am Tuesday morning which is why I woke up at precisely 3:05 with a rather plump white cat draped across my face. Boo is not a fan of anything not written precisely in the script, and weather of any kind other than sunny and warm, seems to set her tail on fire.

Murphy’s law in full force, I decided last weekend to do what I call “big shopping” at the grocery store. Since Rick passed away I tend to shop in smaller increments but felt it was time to stock up. As usual, my timing is right on the money. Money being the optimum word here as I was unable to save 80% of what was in my refrigerator due to the fact every available source for ice was sold out in the area.

All appliances unavailable for use at the house, I ventured out early Tuesday in search of a much needed cup of coffee. After waiting in lines at intersections with lights not working, and hitting all local coffee providers, I found no place open to buy a cup of Joe. A girl has gotta have her caffeine, so I actually merged on the freeway and traveled twenty miles south locating a McDonald’s with lights on and a line circling the building. Pulling in line behind the last car I caught a glimpse of my hair in the rear view mirror. With no hair dryer available it looked a bit like a cotton candy blowout. I pulled on my ball cap in deference to other drivers around me who might have gotten the impression I was getting a head start on Halloween.

To add to this mixed bag of goodies, I am in the process of moving my mother to a board and care. This is the fourth move I’ve done on her behalf in the last eight years. If you add the two I’ve done for myself that brings me to six moves in nearly as many years. Personally I am up to what I believe might be a near record for non military personnel of thirty-nine moves. My mother I’m sure is working on nearly half that. Often I have thought perhaps I am missing the signs the universe seems to be sending my way. Perhaps I should consider opening a packing business. Certainly I have enough experience at this point in the game. Give me a couple of rolls of tape, a month’s accumulation of newspapers, and some boxes and I can pack a twelve room house plus garage in about two hours. Kidding naturally, so please no requests, but I am both fast and nearly breakage free when it comes to getting the job done.

This power situation couldn’t have come at a worse time for me. My daughter and I have been planning a garage sale for this weekend in an effort to get rid of all the excess household items left over from my move, my mother’s move, and their last move presently taking up space on one side of their garage. With people running around trying to find places to charge their phones, get gas, or simply figure out what to do with themselves while sitting in the dark for twelve hours every night, perhaps going to a garage sale isn’t sitting at the top of their to-do list. Fortunately the power was restored to most of the area this morning so perhaps we can still pull this off.

I have been staying at my mother’s assisted living apartment while the lights have been off. As such facilities cater to a large population of elderly people, some requiring oxygen or other medical devices, they have to have an alternative electrical source available should the power go down. Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, was left at home to man the gate. This had me running back and forth between the two living spaces making sure she has fresh water, a good dose of loving, and some kitty treats in her bowl.

Sometimes I wonder when life is ever going to settle down. I’m not asking for a boring flat line existence, but a slow rippling roll would be most welcome. Some days it seems like it’s been spiking and dipping like a roller coaster for years on end. I find my mind drifting to white sandy beaches and clear azure waters as I fall off to sleep these nights.

Sleep is another thing that seems to be evading me. I go to sleep no problem, but can’t seem to maintain a deep sleep once I have dozed off. Often I find myself looking at the ceiling two or three times during the night sometimes giving up completely and getting up and pushing brew on the coffee machine in the wee hours of the morning. My diagnosis of this phenomenon is that my subconscious is ticking off everything going on in my life and telling me there aren’t enough hours in the day to spend any lying down so I’d better get up and get something done.

Someone told me the other day I need to slow down. Really? How do I do that exactly? I do try to find me time to put my feet up and have a relaxing cup of tea, but usually in the middle of that the phone is ringing or something comes up that needs my attention. Perhaps I should put in a panic room and lock myself in it for an hour each day? Panic being the optimum word here

Yesterday I ran back and forth for my kitty, met with the home health nurse and went to the store for my mom, stopped to pick up more moving boxes, met a friend for her birthday lunch, stopped at the store on the way home for something to throw in the microwave, and retrieved my credit card from the pharmacy where I left it earlier in the day. Pulling into the assisted living facilities parking lot around dinner time I found the lot full of hay bales and bustling with activity. A sign attached to a scarecrow read, “Halloween Party in Progress – Parking Lot Full – Please Park Across the Street and Take The Free Shuttle”. Good news my hair was all ready for the parade. Yay. So I parked across the street and asked the very nice shuttle driver if he would mind if I loaded up the back of the van with moving boxes Not only did he oblige, but loaded them both on and off for me. Most probably he got a good look at my hair and felt I needed all the help I could get. I told him I would bear his children. Dropping me off in the parking lot with my load he suggested I go over later and collect my vehicle lest it get towed. Okay. My angels continuing to show up when needed he was kind enough to pick me up at the street corner two hours later trying to figure out how to get across the busy intersection.

Today I am out getting signs for our sale and change for the customers. I have sorted through most of my mom’s things and put them in three boxes, KEEP, DONATE, and GARAGE SALE. Again, I state from my previous blog about caretaking for an older parent, making decisions on their behalf such as this is not an easy undertaking. She has kept every card and letter given her over the years but there is no place to store these nor does she remember she has them anymore really. So, those memories will have to be kept tightly in her heart and find another home as we sift through her life. Sorry Mama.

I am off to get started. Wishing you a day filled with illumination.

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Sometimes I find myself studying couples and wondering what on earth brought the two of them together. I’m talking about those couples who outwardly appear so completely mismatched you wonder how they ever found a common path. We’ve all seen such unlikely pairs. He may be very tall with lanky dimensions, slightly balding, with a quiet, almost shy demeanor. She, a diminutive woman of generous proportions with masses of wild ginger hair and vibrantly colored lips which never stop moving. Yet, somehow like the smooth ocean waves caressing the rough edges off coarse grains of sand they pair together in a perfect dance.

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The mating dance in some form or another occurs in all creatures on earth except those who produce asexually such as starfish and sea anemones. Thankfully, with humans, it takes two to tango. And, whether we tango or foxtrot, in nearly every species it is the male tasked with making the first move. For some creatures, such as the male black widow spider, this privilege may come with questionable rewards. Once the deal is consummated, the object of his affection then kills and eats him. To my mind not much incentive to be in a hurry to fill a spot on Saturday night.

For me, one of the more magical of these mating displays are fireflies. I saw my first firefly in the backyard of my home in St. Albans, West Virginia in 1991. Spring had merged into summer in the Mountain State. Humid in that part of the country, the new season brought with it hot sultry days followed by restless sweat filled nights. The ceiling fan pushed the hot air around in the kitchen while I finished cleaning up after dinner. Thankfully there was a window over the sink allowing a breeze to sift in through the screen. The kitchen was situated towards the rear of the building facing the back yard. Beyond the house the lawn faded into an alleyway where a line of scruffy shrubs separated the alley from the railroad tracks. Fascinated I watched as a sea of  twinkling lights began to flicker above the shrubbery like a thousand Tinkerbells signalling for Peter Pan.  I called my husband. Growing up in Texas he was somewhat amused at my reaction because because fireflies were a familiar sight for him. This lovely display, he explained, was the male insects signalling they had their tap shoes on and were ready to dance should a so inclined female be in the area. Absolutely one of the most enchanting natural phenomena I have witnessed. Never, in the three years I lived there did I tire of seeing these tiny beacons as the sun settled down for the evening.

As I said in the first paragraph, the interesting part for me is not that we pick partners. We are, after all, programmed to procreate. Rather I am fascinated by the partners we pick. Sometimes in the logical scheme of things on the surface our partnering seems to make perfect sense. Beautiful runway model marries equally beautiful football quarterback, or a doctor elopes with his nurse. You’d think when like meets like, it should create a perfect pairing. However, look how many of these perfect pairings end up seated next to their high priced lawyers arguing over who is going to get the Lamborghini in their property settlement? Perhaps our need to mate coupled with our inability to delineate the right person from the wrong one has to do with the high divorce rate in this country? Most of us spend more time researching the best vehicle for our needs before driving it off the lot then we do choosing people we are planning to commit a lifetime to. Certainly I am guilty of this. You don’t get married four times if you’ve chosen well the first time.

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My last relationship, undeniably my best and longest, was with a man I had little in common with. Rick and I met on Matchmaker.com. My profile was number 227 on his list of compatible ladies. After attempting several meetings with the more probable candidates that lit no fires for the parties concerned, he told me he kept returning to look at my profile again.  After our first date which was a hockey game and video arcade we were rarely apart. During our twenty years together we looked forward to seeing each other every day, enjoyed lively conversations about everything, laughed often, and rarely shared a harsh word.

Conversely, sometimes a pairing that outwardly seems not to be working, might actually be moving along swimmingly for those involved. Take the couple married forty years who haven’t agreed on anything since they said “I do”. Some people communicate best when bickering with one another. For me, I enjoy a little spirited debate though constant arguing would have me running for the door. “One man’s meat is another man’s poison”.

Rick and I were as unalike as Kim Kardashian and Mother Teresa. He was born in Cairo, Egypt, while I was raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Rick’s palate leaned toward heady exotic foreign flavors whereas I was weaned on orange marmalade, New England style boiled dinners, and poached salmon. Over the years each of us bent toward the other, learning to embrace what each brought to the table. One night a month we celebrated “eeewwee night”, a night where each of us cooked our own meals featuring something the other didn’t enjoy eating. For Rick it was usually organ meat such as liver or kidneys which I prefer to pass on. For me scallops or a fat juicy hamburger which weren’t on his list of favorites.

Food issues can easily be compromised. However, there are some key areas that absolutely need to be discussed before prior to booking a venue for the nuptials. Areas like children, yes or no?  If one player wants a big family where the other prefers living life footloose and fancy free this can create huge roadblocks down the road. Making a decision on whether or not to have offspring is not like saying one prefers abstract paintings in the living room while the other is partial to country chic. Deciding whether or not to have children affects your life now and in the years to come. For the partner who wants children but denies themselves the opportunity, this could build resentment, as it may as well for the partner who has children without having the desire to do so.

Religious preferences could possibly also be a touchy area, as well as political differences. Politics can be difficult if you sit on opposite sides of the fence because it often reflects an ideology that is totally different from the other person. I have even heard of couples breaking up over which football team they supported.

It always makes my heart sad to see couples probably together for many years, seated across from one another in a restaurant not exchanging a single word. Being a communicator myself, this lack of sharing would drive me over the edge of boredom and far far away. I often wonder if they simply have run out of things to say to one another, though God knows the world offers up a vast array of things to discover together, or if at some point they simply stopped caring enough to try. At that point I believe I would either do something proactive to change the dynamics, or throw in the towel and go down to the local shelter and adopt a kitten. I would most certainly prefer my own company and an occasional lonely moment. Nothing more miserable than being lonely together.

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So I continue to explore the coupling experience. At this stage of my life I find I am very clear on what I want and what I do not. Rick, who passed away last September, will always be in heart and memories and for now that is enough. Each person who touches your life leaves a bit of their story with you and you with them. Should someone come along as I continue along my way then we shall see then how my story ends.

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1At last it is warm enough to tackle some of my outdoor projects. Over the winter months my garage tends to become a catchall for everything being far less organized than in the warmer seasons when I can get out there to work. Last weekend “clean garage” was plainly written under Saturday on my calendar. Rising early and with sufficient coffee to start my engine, I headed out the door. Grabbing my broom I brushed cobwebs out of the windows and teased leaves out of corners. Towards the back of the room stand four wall units where everything is stored from dry goods to overflow cooking utensils. Moving one unit to sweep behind it something large and furry scurried past me. Before I could identify it, it ran along the back of the garage disappearing behind a pile of logs. I went inside to tell Rick about the beastie. When I complain about the copious leaves in the yard or the deer eating our flowers Rick shoots me that look as if to say, “what do you expect, we live in the mountains”. Apparently this look covers critters in the garage as well. Yes, I get we live in the forest, thank you.  Nobody loves animals more than I do. However, I would prefer to know what type of animal I am dealing with before choosing to share space with it. There is a vast difference in experience between being in the garage with a squirrel and being in the garage with a skunk, if you get my drift. (No pun intended.)

Gingerly I began poking at the logs stacked in the corner. Newly purchased bags of potting soil were leaning against them. With a sunny weekend in the forecast, plans were in the works to begin digging in my garden. I did not want to be surprised by something unpleasant with teeth. Out of the corner of my eye I caught two beady little eyes staring up at me from behind the stacked wood. To complete the picture beyond one log the tip of a rather slinky tail protruded. As the hair began to come to attention along the base of my neck my mind began to scream, RAT, RAT, RAT. Ewwwww. Can I say it again?  Ewwwww. I’ve dealt with wasps, black widow spiders, and centipedes but never rodents. Well, for the sake of full disclosure I did have a wee gray mouse once.  His visit a brief but memorable one once our old cat honed in on his location. Mouse didn’t come by her name for nothing. Such is the circle of life. Unfortunately our cat du jour, Boo, the Queen of Cats, did not accept Mouse living in her house so we had to find Miss Mouse a new home. Boo, lazy to the very depth of her spoiled old bones, if faced with a rat would probably lie down and take a nap.

The following day after seeing the rat I called the pest control people. Conducting a thorough inspection, the service man said there was no infestation. Thank God. There was evidence of one rat, most likely a teenager. Personally I don’t care whether the rat was five or forty, I want him to find another place to hang his little rat hat. For enough money to pay for a semester at Harvard the man said he would set traps to rid us of the beast.  In addition to a substantial initial outlay a year-long contract was to be included to be paid on a monthly basis.  Hmmmm. Suddenly the rat was looking better than the service man.

I associate rats with being dirty. Not wanting to be considered as such, I prattled on about my attention to cleanliness with the pest control guy. Finally, probably tiring of hearing how my knees were raw from scrubbing the floors 24/7, he told me this rat probably just came in out of the rain and as a bonus discovered the dry goods we store in the garage. Who knew rats liked non-dairy creamer and coffee?

Searching for a less expensive option, I dialed my son’s number. Several years ago he’d had three rats in his garage. When he’d originally discussed this with me I was surprised. I keep a very clean house, but my daughter-in-law is immaculate. Dinner could be served up on her kitchen floor without fear of ingesting a single germ. For her this must have been tantamount to being told someone in the neighborhood had come down with bubonic plague. Duct work had to be torn down and replaced, x-rays taken of walls, and $5,000 later the house was rat-free. Ewwwww, once again.

Another friend of mine had rats in her walls. This can be a serious problem. Fortunately our situation is one rat, one garage. Easy peasey. In my friend’s case pest control set out a series of traps with cheese laced with poison. Rats ate the laced cheese and retreated back into the walls to go wherever rats go when they pass on. Unfortunately retrieval of the bodies was not part of the contract. After a few days and a good dose of hot air blown through the ducts from the furnace the house began to smell. More money then had to be invested to do something about odor abatement. Ach.

We often leave our garage door open during the day. My mother comments on her visits she would worry about critters getting in. In the four years we’ve been here we have only had one “critter” in the garage, a small deer who wandered in to help herself to some cat food. Perhaps we will have to rethink this strategy in the future.

So, we have purchased traps and as barbaric as I find this whole procedure it’s him or me. I am not willing to continue to go in the garage in hip boots and full haz-mat gear for the rest of my tenure in this house.

Probably not the best idea to pair a discussion of rodents with food, but what I am if not a trend setter?

These lamb burgers were our virgin run on the grill for the season. I love ground lamb and it is great for a change up from a traditional burger.

Grilled Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce

1 1/2 lb. minced lamb
1/2 onion chopped fine
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. crushed mint
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup Feta cheese
3 Tbsp. olive oil
4 English muffins
Tomatoes and red onion
Spinach leaves

Mix all ingredients together well. Refrigerate for 1 hr. Form into patties.

Spray grill well with cooking spray. Preheat grill to med-high heat. Cook meat patties 3-4 minutes per side. Remove and top with Feta cheese.

At the same time baste each English muffin on cut side with olive oil. Place on grill until browned.

Serve patties on muffins with tomatoes, red onion (grilled are best) and fresh spinach leaves topped with Tzatziki sauce.

Tzatziki Sauce

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1 cucumber, finely diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lemon juiced
1 Tbsp. dill
3 cloves garlic

Mix together and chill for 1 hr. Serve on top of lamb burgers.

Serves 4

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