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Posts Tagged ‘humor’

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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There are pluses and minuses to living alone. At times it can be a solitary existence, but if you spin that correctly it can also mean time spent doing things you enjoy, when you want to enjoy them. Simple pleasures such as picking up a good book at three in the afternoon in your most lived in sweats, and wiling away a couple of hours, or having a bowl of Cheerios and bananas for dinner. It also gives you the latitude to decorate your nest as you please without having to ask “do you like this chair” or “what do you think of this color for the living room wall”? Rick and I shared a lot of things, our taste in decorating wasn’t one of them. Where Rick leaned toward sleek clean lines and modern decor, I bent much more in the direction of cozy country chic designs, making picking out artwork, furniture, and even dishes a matter of initiating compromise on both sides. In our first house, the decor was much more Rick’s style than mine. As it was his house, that should not be surprising. However, when we moved in our first house together his style sort of blended with mine creating an interesting, but not unappealing (at least to us) eclectic mix.

In a recent blog, I mentioned my current pining for ocean breezes and salty air. I also mentioned I had finally purchased a new bed. Both came together as I began to rethink the room once the new furniture was in place. As the ideas flowed and the design ideas progressed, I brought the sea to the room and love, love, love the end result. Was I left to my own devices and didn’t have a life to live, I would climb up on that oh so comfy mattress, sink into my bank of pillows, and simply “be” for the next five years. Unfortunately, I would be doing my “be-ing” on the street before long so feel I need to do more with my time than wallow about swathed in cotton all day.

A friend of mine called this morning. She was telling me her granddaughter, a recent high school graduate, is headed to UC Santa Barbara this fall along with her childhood best buddy. The girls drove up from the LA area last weekend with their parents to sign a lease on an off campus apartment where they will make their home during their first year at school. How exciting. I have to admit as she was filling me in on the details of the girls college plans, I felt a pang or two of envy. The whole college experience is something I missed out on. Not because it wasn’t available to me, but rather because I chose another option. Though I believe you should be grateful for what you have, and not spend time lamenting what you do not, I have always wondered what going off to college might have looked like. I managed to jam nearly a full year of college credits in between raising two toddlers and a full time job, but that is not the same as heading off to school with no outside encumbrances. For me there were no late night parties, sorority sisters, or football games. I was all about diapers, bills and a husband.

Part of having children early in life is it will likely leave you an empty nester at a relatively young age. Now, this may be far less true nowadays, particularly here in California. The cost of housing has become so prohibitive and housing availability so tight, a lot of adult children are still living under their parent’s roof just to make ends meet. Both my children were out on their own by the time I celebrated my fortieth birthday, with my first grandchild arriving on the scene the year I turned forty-two. That was a red letter year for me. I got married that year, yes again, and was living in West Virginia when my sweet little granddaughter was born. At around the time she turned six weeks old, I could no longer wait for our first introduction. I purchased a ticket, and hopped on a plane at Yeager Airport in Charleston and flew non-stop to San Jose. For me this was a big event in several ways. Since moving from Alabama to West Virginia I had inexplicably been suffering from anxiety attacks. I had never dealt with them before, and once they abated, thankfully, never have since. At the time, however, they were a driving power in my life. When I would shop at a large box store such as Sam’s Club, for example, being inside that cavernous warehouse brought about an immediate claustrophobic reaction in me. As I went further into the belly of the beast, my heart would begin to pound, my ears take to ringing, and my forehead would develop lines of sweat. Suddenly, I would get the overwhelming urge to run out of the building, and would have to find an exit in order to gather my breath. These annoying responses went on for about two years before I finally got a grip on them and was able to pack them away in my memory chest. Once, when visiting my kids in California I joined them on a trip to Disneyland. Disneyland, as you can imagine, is not the ideal place to find yourself when dealing with claustrophobia. Being inside in the dark on rides is sort of their claim to fame. For those of you who have been there and gone on Space Mountain you will understand exactly what I am saying here. Somehow I muddled through. At the time they were featuring the 3-D movie Captain EO, starring Michael Jackson, in their Magic Eye Theater in Tomorrowland. The theater itself was massive on the inside. We were handed 3-D glasses on entering the building, and were seated in the middle of the center row with people stretched out on either side. When the doors shut and the dark was absolute. Mommy. The movie started, and I could feel my heart rate moving up the scale with the music. Using all the tools my doctor had given me, I worked on taking my mind off what my body was doing and concentrating on what was going on on the screen. The 3-D glasses allow the viewer to capture all the amazing effects giving the impression images are right in front of your face. For me, this was the last straw. Dark closed in, and glasses off, gasping like a wide mouth bass in the bottom of the boat, I stood up and told my son-in-law I had to leave. “Leave, now?”, he said, but I was already saying “excuse, me. pardon, me”, all the way across the aisle. An employee grabbed me y the arm asking what in a whisper exactly what I thought I was doing. Unable to explain myself, but after seeing my face, she just guided me to an exit. A bit embarrassing to say the least. Outside people were staring at me as red faced I sucked at the air hoping to grab a little oxygen. For any of you who have ever had an anxiety attack, you will understand the feelings I am describing. It is a fight or flight reaction your body goes into when faced with danger. Though Captain EO posed no danger at all to my psyche, the closing doors triggered my body into action. After a while, I learned to manage the anxiety. First, you have to acknowledge to yourself that you are having a panic attack, then remind yourself there is actually no imminent danger. Next, you have to breathe in and out slowly to calm yourself down. It really is amazing the power of the mind. Probably says a lot as to why it is said a positive attitude can effect a cancer outcome, or how negative thoughts can create illness.

At any rate, after that long detour into my psyche, when my granddaughter was born this is what I was managing. Getting on a plane, basically a long tube where you are closed in and hermetically sealed, was a problem for me. When the doors were closed and the cheerful flight attendant was robotically reciting the safety rules, the pounding in my chest once again resumed, sounding like a kettle drum inside my ears. Oh-oh. All I could think about is imagining myself standing at the door to the cockpit, beating loudly, and screaming, “OUT, I NEED TO GET OUT”! Thankfully, they serve liquor on planes so I managed to survive the flight without total public humiliation, well at least with the panic attacks. By the time I arrived in San Jose my tongue and lips had agreed they could no longer form words and I could no longer feel my feet. When I got up to get my carry on bag out of the overhead bin, I had to be accosted by the flight attendant two seats down the aisle to be informed the bag I had retrieved belonged to the lady in the seat across from me and mine was still up in the compartment Whoops. Could have been worse, I could have borrowed her husband or somebody’s child. Probably wouldn’t have noticed the difference. Ach.

It was grand to be there once I sobered up. Seeing your grandchildren for the first time is nearly the event greeting your own is, though with less participation and less responsibility on your part. I have to say being part of the audience rather than one of the key players, can prove far less stressful. On my arrival at my daughter’s house, a sweet little pink bundle was placed in my arms. A tiny girl with a serious head of dark hair stared up at me as if to say, “Hi, Nana” and I was hooked. Always I have loved children. Their innate ability to accept the most ludicrous of scenarios as full of possibilities and adventures, their unchecked honestly (no matter how painful), and their wide eyed fascination with anything and everything populating their world. Like my cat, who always seems to find her way into my blogs, you can give a child a cardboard box and they will see a fort, a suit of armor, or perhaps even a sled gliding down an icy hill. As we get older and decorum and proper adult behavior become expected of us, we lose that childish innocence and overt joy. Too bad we couldn’t pack it away like a cloud of fireflies in a Mason jar to be pulled out of reserve for darker days.

We do survive things, we humans. Crises come and crises go. People float into our lives, some sticking like jelly to the wall, and others slipping away after a while and disappearing from sight. There are so many mysteries yet to unfold. I wonder at times what life will look like forty years in the future, or even a century away. I will not be here to write about it, but would love to be a fly on the wall to see what state the world is in as time marches along. I hope we open our eyes to climate change and start seriously taking responsibility for our part in keeping this world safe for our children, and grandchildren and theirs. Each of us has a hand in how we impact our environment and hopefully we can reverse some of the damage already done or at the very least prevent further damage in the future.

Have a safe and productive day. TGIF!!

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Rolled over on my pillow this morning and opened my eyes to find a wee mouse face staring back at me. Boo, apparently, was having a restless evening and decided to invite a friend to sleep over. Thankfully, this mouse was of the stuffed variety. Had it been our other cat, Mouse, named appropriately, this story would have ended far differently. Mouse was a hunter by nature. We inherited her from our neighbors, who moved neglecting to leave a forwarding address for their cat. Can’t tell you how much I dislike that kind of behavior. Mouse came blasting up our driveway one morning yowling in distress, and within three weeks had moved into our guest room on the second floor, much to Boo’s disdain. Mouse was a street cat, in comparison to Boo for whom the only street she identifies with might be Rodeo Drive. Boo, would never reduce herself to catching her own food, but rather has hers delivered by her minion, namely me, in her pretty china bowl with her name engraved on the front.

I believe Boo brought me the thoughtful gift by way of telling me it was cold in the house. Though temperatures have been high in the area for this time of year, a winter storm is pushing over us and the thermometer has dropped considerably. Tomorrow is predicted to be in the fifties, as compared to close to ninety last week. Weird, weird, weather of late to go along with weird, weird everything else. The house was cold, as it turned out, not because the heater was off, that would be too easy. The house was cold in spite of the heater being turned on. Oh-oh. The lovely bonus of renting rather than owning a home, is when something goes wrong it is someone else’s responsibility. I have to say, I embrace this part of being a tenant with great enthusiasm. Texting my landlord, who lives across the street from me, he came over almost immediately and confirmed what I had told him, the heater was not going on. Coinciding nicely with Murphy’s Law, this always seem to happen on a Friday, just before a weekend. Also, it has been warm enough outside not to need heat until, yes, you guessed it, this weekend. Sigh. The repairman was not available until today, and if parts are needed, then the repair will have to wait until they arrive. Meanwhile, two small space heaters were brought over last night in case my teeth took to chattering.

It is hardly brutally cold, like east coast cold, but fifty is not swimsuit weather either. I’ll cross my fingers it is the thermostat that needs to be replaced and not something more complicated. Last summer the A/C went out in the middle of a heat wave (Murphy again) and we nearly stewed in our own juices. Thankfully, my landlords had a portable air conditioning unit at their disposal because the part to get the unit up and running (due to the pandemic) didn’t show up for nearly a month. Without the portable when found, we would have been but two oily puddles with underwear floating in the middle, oh and one small puddle with an abundance of white cat fur.

I do like the freedom owning your own home affords you. You don’t have to ask if you want to get a dog, or paint a wall. If the mood strikes you to paint your spare room royal blue, you do just that. Also, you are accruing equity in something you own rather than depositing your money in someone else’s retirement account every month. As I’ve said before, I do not get an “A” for planning for my golden years. It’s like that old saying, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself”. I think when you’re young, you can’t conceive of ever not being young. I first noticed the change in status when my doctor, while explaining a minor health problem I was dealing with, said to me, “well, this is to be expected as we age”. We age? Who’s aging? Moi? No, can it be so. But I guess I can’t ignore the reality, it can be so, and it is. I always quantify, however, I would rather be getting older then not getting anything at all, so there you go.

Lately I have been looking at my finances. I do this with one eye closed, sometimes both, and using a pair of tongs. Living in the moment is where I try to remain, but sometimes for practical reasons I have to look a little further down the road. My road, though I hope spanning many miles in front of me, isn’t going to find me rolling in prosperity or living in the lap, or even the the shin of luxury at this point. Rick and I cashed in my 401K early to get the restaurant going so that avenue has been cordoned off, and Rick is no longer here so his income is gone. Apparently, I have to pull on my big girl bloomers and figure something out myself. I have looked over my shoulder and don’t see anyone jumping up and down, arm raised, saying “I’ll do it”, so I’m assuming I’m the only man (or woman as the case may be) in the raft. Drat the luck. I have skills and certainly could fall back on my graphic art background. The idea of polishing up my resume and stepping back into the working world is about as appealing to me as crawling across a field of yellow jackets, but sometimes we have to do what we have to do. I’m thinking freelancing might be the ticket. Whatever it is I decide to take a shot at most likely I want to work from home. Fortunately, now is the prime time to do just that, so I will begin exploring some options sooner than later.

For today, as Scarlett might say, “Fiddle-de-dee, I’ll think about it tomorrow.” It’s the weekend and there’s a chill in the air, food in the cupboard, and a roof over my head. Life is good.

Whenever I think of air conditioning units I think of the south. I lived in Muscle Shoals, Alabama for a year in the 1990’s. Sent there for a short-term job, we needed to find accommodations allowing us to move before the year was up without involving a lease. my ex-husband and I located a lovely three bedroom brick home in a nice bedroom community which rented month-to-month. Perfect. To say it got hot in Alabama during the summer would be like describing a Ferrrari as a nice little luxury car. Hot, hot, hot. Air conditioning wasn’t a luxury when living there, it was a life or death choice. Thankfully, our landlords were diligent about keeping up their rentals so when we moved in the A/C was happily pumping out chilled air and the house was comfortable and welcoming. Once my husband got settled in at his new job I began the process of finding temporary work for the short time we would be in the state. We had one car at the time, because it was practical for our lifestyle. Construction bums of a sort, he worked for one company who shopped out his skills to jobs all across the U.S. Two vehicles meant we had two vehicles to move each time we relocated, and that we couldn’t ride together when on the road. Though it suited our purposes in that way, once settled in it made things a little more dicey if both of us wanted to work. Signed up with a temp agency, I was quickly placed at the local hospital in their infectious disease department. My duties included urine tests on new employees and random tests on current employees making me about as popular as the plague. After doing this for several weeks I came to believe it wasn’t that I was chosen first out of a group of candidates but rather the only one willing to take the job.

My husband got a ride to work each day with another pipe fitter living just around the corner. That freed me up to take the car to work. It was old, even by classic standards, and a boat. The chassis seemed to extend for miles beyond the front window. When you rode over a pothole you glided rather than bumped over it. The front seat was a bench seat and the car so massive I had to use a makeshift adult booster seat to allow my feet to reach the pedals. Another distinct liability was the A/C came on and went off at whim, making it like driving in a tomb on extremely hot, and always unpleasantly humid summer days. Often by the time I reached home, a 40 minute commute, my face would be lit up like a ripe tomato. During one particularly hot spell, I actually had to pull over at the mall and get a cold drink and cool down half way through my trip each night to keep from ending up prostrate by the side of the road. People who hail from Canada are not meant for hot, sticky climates. We’re just not built for it.

Just before we were set to move on to our next assignment, the old beater finally decided to admit defeat and refused to go into any gear but reverse. Had we wished to back our way all the way to West Virginia, this would have been handy, but otherwise this put us in a situation. The neighborhood we lived in was friendly. We knew most of our neighbors by name and well enough to stop and carry on a conversation, and some we socialized with. One family, directly across the street from us, was more of the “hi, how are y’all doing today” variety than the let’s break bread together variety. Nevertheless, seeing the hood up on the car seemed to trigger a visceral response in the men in the area, and pretty soon there were four or five heads bent over the cars internals discussing the situation. Turns out the car needed a new transmission, among a long list of other things I’m sure. Had it been human, my doctor would have repeated his statement mentioned above. Transmissions were not a cheap fix I was given to understand. What I know about the workings of the combustion engine could be jammed into the head of a straight pin with plenty of room left over. As it turned out, our neighbor knew a guy, who knew a guy, who had a wrecking yard. Heads were scratched, calls were made, and pretty soon my husband and Bud, as I came to know him, were off to pick up a replacement transmission in the nearest big city, about a two hour drive. As we were to leave in two days, work began on the car as soon as they got back. Men came and went, the sound of beer cans being opened and electric drills filled the air, and the testosterone was so thick in the front yard I hesitated to step out and offer food lest the hair on my legs grow two inches before getting safely back in the house. Somehow, the old trannie (their word) got pulled (also their word) and the new one dropped in. Quite a feat in the time constraints and in a yard, the story would be told. All Bud would take for his efforts was a steak dinner with all the trimmings, which I made happen before we hit the road.

In my life there have always been angels who showed up just in the nick of time before despair ruled the day. I feel quite blessed to have them around and perhaps even more so in the strange times we currently find ourselves in. I’m sure you have a few of your own whether you’re aware they are there or not. Keep your eyes open next time you find yourself approaching the high water mark.

Have a great weekend!!

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What a picture perfect day it is here in Northern California. I would be celebrating the glorious spring weather was it not for the wind rustling through the freshly sprouted tree leaves, distributing a fine layer of dusty golden pollen now covering my freshly washed car. I am an allergy sufferer, so each spring I pay the price for enjoying all the lovely early blooms popping up in my garden, and reveling in the happy dance of the bees hovering over my azalea bush. Last year I went in for a series of skin tests to narrow down what, in fact, was triggering the endless bouts of sneezing and perpetual drip, drip, drip of my nasal passages when April and May roll around on the calendar. When the results were in, it would appear I have checked all the boxes. Cats, check, dogs, check, mold, check, trees, hay, check. Check, check, check and on and on.

The doctor’s first suggestion, one which I have already implemented, was to use air purifiers. I put one in the living room, and the other one is happily humming away in my bedroom. Unfortunately, a full-nature model covering the planet at large isn’t available on the market as yet, so this only alters the indoor environment. Also, he told me to be sure my heater/AC vents are properly dusted, and to replace the filters often. Vacuuming and dusting regularly will help as well, something I already do, and keeping the cat outdoors if possible. Done, done and, um, not done. These suggestions have been a big help, up to to the outdoor cat situation, which simply which isn’t doable. Noticing I ignored the outdoor cat invitation, my doctor took a different tack, this time pointing a finger directly at my cat. He felt it would be better if Boo slept somewhere other than my bed and if I wished to keep a pet, I should keep her out of the bedroom entirely. Right, Dr. M., you tell Boo. She’s pretty sure that’s where she is going to be. As for me, I’m not comfortable sleeping with both doors shut to my room, nor am I inclined to get up twenty times in the wee hours to remove a reluctant feline from the bed. I’m already up three times for other reasons, if you get my drift. I mentioned casually to Boo she might consider using the lovely fleece lined cat bed I purchased for her last winter. I can’t be certain but I’m pretty sure the extended paw I got in response had only one middle claw pointed upward for emphasis. Let’s say I was getting a lot of cattitude. In her defense, this is a standard of behavior we have established over some thirteen years, and neither of us is looking to change it any time soon. The third choice he gave me, which I liked the best of the three, was for me to begin a series of allergy shots. Apparently, these shots can prove very effective in lowering a persons allergic response to irritants. That is, of course, unless I prove allergic to shots, which isn’t entirely off the table. Where do I sign up? I start in two weeks. Have to wait until the Covid shot effects are completely out of my body. So, Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, will continue to sleep on the pillow next to me in my new bed, and I will continue to regale her with her much needed belly rubs and brush her eternally molting coat. Life is good.

Aside from the allergies, I have asthma. Essentially I signed up for the whole litter of the breathing spectrum kiddies. I went to pick up my inhaler the other day, my first refill of 2021. $285 lighter, I received my teeny tiny small bag from the pharmacy clerk for my donation and went out in my car to weep in private. My deductible allows for one whopping price tag at the beginning of the year, and this was the one for 2021. Don’t get me started on drug prices. I pay a small fortune for health insurance to fill in the gaps that Medicare doesn’t pay. On top of that, I pay a prescription drug plan costing another third of a Hamilton to cover my medication, and yet still lay out $285 for an inhaler. It is not like this is a face cream where I have a choice on which one I select, or the option to not to select one at all. I need my inhaler to breathe. What do people do who do not have $285 to lay down on the counter? Gets my Irish up.

As I said one can choose or not choose how much to pay for beauty products. My mother, for example, always did her shopping at the Lancome counter at Nordstrom’s. If we were shopping of a day we’d often drop by to pick up her latest batch of high priced beauty products as well as the little gift bag usually handed to her by the copiously fragrant and perfectly put together sales girl at the end of her hefty purchase. You can tell you are in the high rent section of a store when you get a gift bag for buying something at the counter. In my case, I generally get my beauty products at the local drugs store where they charge you $ .10 if you wish to have a bag for your items, and it is plastic not pink or lilac, and doesn’t come with a little fabric tie. What I’m saying here is I could live nicely without any beauty products, though undoubtedly I would live alone, but an inhaler isn’t an opt in or opt out kind of decision I can make. The drug companies have us backed in a corner and they know it. It’s like the oil companies. Unless everyone is going to run out and purchase a Tesla, we are going to continue to have to pay whatever the price is at the pump that the traffic will bear. It would make me nervous I think to have an all electric car. What if you’re driving in the middle of the desert and you can’t find a place to recharge? A bad memory I have is going over the grapevine once in the dead of winter across snow packed highways. I had borrowed a friend’s diesel Mercedes to make the trip as my car was in the shop. At the time diesel wasn’t sold as readily as it is now and I found myself on a steep grade late at night with the gas gauge needle pointed directly at E. Thankfully, a huge amount of commercial trucks travel that particular route so I located a station with a diesel pump before I had to pull over to the side of the road and wait for my extremities to begin to go numb.

Well there’s my hump day hump. I’m done now. Thank you for allowing me to vent. I hope your week is without frustration and running as quietly as a Tesla on a deserted country road (hopefully with a recharge station). Talk soon. Stay safe.

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I haven’t written in awhile. Life has been unusually hectic the past few weeks, leaving little spare time to sit at my computer. Don’t ask me what I’ve been doing, I probably couldn’t tell you in great detail. All I can say is somehow, each day managed to fill up to the brim as it folded into the next.

When I hit OVERLOAD on my time management scale, things begin to go south for me. Today, for example, I got up early and went for a walk. As is my habit, I grabbed the key to the house off the hook by the door, tucking it in my sweatshirt pocket. Stepping outside, the temperature was far colder than I’d anticipated. Only having on a light hoodie, I went back in the house to retrieve a heavier jacket from the closet. Turning the lock on the door before closing it, I enjoyed a brisk tour of the neighborhood, circling back to the house about forty-five minutes later. Normally, this would be just a day in the life of. Possibly it could even be considered yawn worthy, if not for the fact I’d neglected to retrieve the key from the pocket of the hoodie I originally had on. Duh, and double duh. I walked up to the door and tried the knob What? I know I locked it. Human nature being what it is, even knowing it was locked, I had to test it. You know I did. Tight as a drum. Yup, good job, Susie. I had a duplicate key made for such occasions. Peering into the also locked living room window I could see it hooked on the ring with my car keys. Perhaps I need to refine the thinking on that program? Both keys hanging on the same hook probably shouldn’t be Plan A. Fortunately, I had my cell phone. Like every electronic device I have ever owned, it is currently suffering from technical issues. Basically, I can’t hear an incoming caller unless I put them on speaker. Putting someone on speaker is not an option I always enjoy. One never knows what one might be doing while speaking on the phone. Also, I don’t want the cat listening in, you know how nosy felines can be. Before taking it in to Apple to get a tech involved, I decided to search on line for solutions. What did we do pre-Internet, I wonder? The answers to every question posed since the dawn of man seems to be found there. I performed all the suggested “fixes” noted on the tech driven websites. End result, you ask? I can’t hear anyone unless they are on speaker. Drat. Not the time to worry about the speaker as it wasn’t getting any warmer, I assessed my situation, Clearly, there were two choices. Either I could pitch a tent in the yard and wait it out until my roommate arrived home in 24 hours, or I could call my landlady and ask her to let me in. Sigh. So high school. Sometimes I think I need a keeper. Swallowing my pride, as my feet were getting colder, I placed the call to my landlady explaining my dilemma. She said she was in a meeting but could be at the house within the hour. Super. Thankfully, I had put on a warmer jacket because by the time her car pulled up, my feet had stopped receiving signals from my circulatory system.

Once inside I thawed out. Warming my hands on a cup of hot coffee, I laid my day out in front of me. Valentine’s Day is tomorrow so I needed to pick up a few cards and some candy for my mother. I figured I could squeeze that errand in the mix somewhere between the bank and the grocery store. Curious as to how the proceedings were going, I switched on the impeachment trial. There’s a happy way to jump start one’s day. I have limited my news input to no more than an hour a day. Immersing myself in what’s going on in our government at the moment will have me dusting off my green card and heading north for the Canadian border. Eternally optimistic, I still keep my fairy dust spreader primed and ready to go in the event our elected officials miraculously locate their moral spines and do what is right for our country rather than what is right for themselves personally. Fingers and toes crossed. Oh update on this, you can uncross all digits, their moral spines are still missing and remain unaccounted for. Wow. That’s all, just WOW.

Even before getting locked out, this week proved a bit of a bust. Yesterday, for example, I went to my bi-monthly hair appointment. Some women find days at the salon relaxing. I am not one of them. Not by nature a “sit still” kind of gal, killing time in a salon chair with goo and tin foil slapped on my head is not my idea of a fun filled afternoon. Armed with a new book and a bottle of water, I conferred with my stylist before getting started with the dye job about the direction my hair color was heading. My first stylist at this salon, Emily, moved on down the road last summer. Without consulting me or a thought to how I’d look, she picked up her family and relocated to a beautiful big house on a lake to provide a better life for her kids. Some people are so self focused. Hah. Before leaving, she recommended a replacement. This was tough on me, as I had just gotten her broken in. Women reading will understand this, it takes a while to break in a new hair dresser. Emily had been the perfect fit for me. Sarah was doing a pretty good job getting up to speed, but my “do” is not exactly how I like it yet. In trying to explain what I wanted, I included visuals of models with my basic hair cut colored the way I would like to see mine. Not rocket science really. Blonde highlights with light brown undertones. Easy peasy. One would think. When Sarah applied the color, it looked dark. Inquiring about the depth of color, I was told not to worry my little blonde head about it, Sarah was at the wheel. Kay. Forty minutes later the color was rinsed off and I was seated in front of the mirror. Not only was my hair now a deep reddish brown (emphasis on the red), but it was highlighted with thin whitish strands giving it the look of a large plate of spaghetti with meat sauce. All I needed was a dash of Parmesan and I was good to go. Oh yay. The look on my face made it obvious, I’m sure, to Sarah this was not going to end well. In response to my expression she commented, “don’t freak out”. “Kay. Why not exactly? I would like to freak out, and then I would like to cry, in that order.” Good lord. Several other products were applied in an attempt to tone down the red. In spite of her valiant efforts, I remained looking like an ad for an Italian restaurant. Along with my hair having a decided maroon tinge, my scalp now matched the color perfectly and had begun to itch from all the chemicals. Check please.

In the end, I was sent home with apologetic assurances Sarah would fit me in post haste to fix the problem. Great, does that assurance come with a bag to wear over my head in the meantime? Texting her this morning I asked when the fix might be done, to which she replied four hours later, “how about next Friday”? To which I replied, “how about, not”. Now, I never fault people for making mistakes. We all are human and, therefore, each of us fallible. However, if you do make a mistake…..if possible, fix it. Sarah made several wrong turns in dealing with her customer (namely me) in my humble opinion. Number one, she allowed me to stew in my own juices for four hours, and number two, she suggested resolving a problem she created at her convenience rather than mine. Both of these mistakes are likely to make someone who started out a bit reasonably annoyed to move the dial quickly over to really pissed off. I’m just saying. I used to train the serving staff in our restaurant. My first instruction was always acknowledge the customer. No matter how busy you are, at least stop and explain you are aware they are waiting, ask if they can get them a beverage, and get to them as expediently as you can. So, after I did not budge on sooner than later, we compromised on Wednesday. Momma ain’t happy, but it is what it is. Glad we have to wear masks at the moment at least I won’t be recognized.

I guess I should consider myself lucky. You may have read about that poor woman who sprayed gorilla glue on her hair because she was out of hair spray. I will say nothing here about why she would make such an obviously poor choice, as this lady has suffered enough. To get the glue off her hair, required a two and a half hour medical procedure. Rick would have completely understood finding oneself in such a mess. Seriously, the man could not be left alone with Crazy Glue.There should have been a warning label on the side of the tube saying “This product not recommended for men answering to the name of Rick”. Sometimes it was like having a big kid. When I handed him the tube I specifically cautioned him not to get any glue on his skin. Two minutes later I heard the dreaded words “oh-oh”. Going back to where he was standing I found him staring at his right hand. He had adhered his thumb to his index and middle finger and they were securely fused. To inject some humor in the situation, I told him his hand was set up perfectly for making rooster finger puppets should the need arise in the future. He assured me he saw no humor or comfort in this. Saving the day, the infinite internet provided a solution and after an hour and a half we were able to undo what he had done. Adding insult to injury, he had dropped the glue container on his new pants. True to the hype it was “permanent” and it was now firmly and undeniably attached to the fabric. While trying to get it off, Rick tore a large hole in the pant leg and we ended up tossing them in the garbage. Lesson learned.

I also launched a full on assault on Covid-19 vaccination sites this past week. My doctor suggested I needed to get the shots as soon as possible as they were now available for my age group and I have asthma. What a process. I felt like a kid trying to score a seat at a wildly popular concert. I’d log on, get on a site, and before I could book a spot that time and day would disappear. Can’t tell you how many times I did that. I’m nothing if not tenacious. After two days it became a sort of quest. Persistence paid off, and I finally got an appointment for Monday, as well as the follow up shot three weeks after that. I feel like I won the lottery. So, I am not sorry to say sayonara to this week in my life, although I do hear my grandmother whispering in my ear, “don’t wish your life away”.

Make it a safe one. Happy Valentine’s Day to you all and to my Rick, this will be my third Valentine’s Day without him.

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I am an only. My mother always enjoyed telling people she originally hoped to have six children, but once I arrived on the scene, she decided one was more than enough. Whatever, Mom. She calls me her “only chick”. Seems appropriate, as most of my life she’s leaned toward being a bit of a mother hen. Whatever the situation, however, she has steadfastly remained my number one fan. I strained this position often. There was the time I blew up the kitchen making mini tacos, or another when I forgot to remove the speaker attached to the window of her new car at the drive-in before exiting the parking lot. Undaunted, she still picked up her pom poms and cheered me on. Being an only chick does not come without the onus of responsibility. As an “only” you carry the torch for those kids who didn’t come before you or those not arriving after you. At one time or another you will be the oldest, the youngest, the best, the worst, the smartest, the dumbest, the happiest, the saddest, the tallest, the shortest, the fattest and the thinnest child your parents will ever have. Faithfully, I lived up to each of these adjectives during my tenure as my mother’s only daughter. Some days, depending on how the wind was blowing, I might have qualified for the whole set on either the plus or the minus side.

My childhood, well up until middle school, would have satisfied the “fattest” portion of the program. Mother referred to my extra padding as “baby fat”, although I had moved beyond the baby fat when my diapers and crocheted hat had been retired. My grandmother, in whose house I had been raised, liked to bake. I was her perfect foil, I liked to eat. A match made in heaven. Living in Nova Scotia, where I made my home until the age of nine, I don’t think I was even aware I was “chubby”. My world was buffered by loving family members and childhood friends. If they felt I was a little round about the edges, they were kind enough to keep that information to themselves. Immediately after celebrating my ninth birthday, my mother remarried. Hoping for a fresh start, and armed with a new last name and a promise of a job at a Southern California newspaper for my new “dad”, the idea of relocating permanently to California was born. To soothe the blow of being uprooted from my childhood home for me, the carrot dangled before my nose was Disneyland. Television was not uncommon in everyone’s homes by then. Children with access to a set, tuned in to the Wonderful World of Disney each week to be part of the magic kingdom Walt Disney had created. Disneyland was for us on the far east coast a dream land. A place built for the young and the young at heart with all manner of rides and excitement available to anyone who could afford the price of a pack of tickets at the gate. Back then it was nothing like it is today. The Matterhorn was still being constructed (I know – old as dirt here) the first time I visited. At the gate you bought books of tickets.They went from A-E. “A” tickets got you on the less popular rides and as you moved on thru B-D you moved up in fun an popularity until you got to “E” tickets which gained you entrance to the more exciting rides such as the Matterhorn once it was open. That first time at the park my mom spent $50, including meals and souvenirs. These days you’d have nearly that much out of your wallet just to pay the parking attendant. I haven’t been recently but I’ve heard there are very long lines and much expense involved in a trip. The endless lines don’t call my name anymore and if I’m going to drop a load of bills it probably won’t be to see Mickey and Minnie dancing down Main Street. I’m just saying. However, the memories of past visits are nice to paste in my memory book.

Even with the promised visit to Disneyland it didn’t take long for me to identify little plump Canadian girls were out of step with the golden girls of California. Blond goddesses, with slender bodies and golden skin. Lane Bryant would never have been an acceptable place to shop for anyone basking in the glow of their inner circles. Around middle school I began to realize I wanted to lose weight. My mother, aware of my struggle with food, stepped in to help. The baby fat had remained steadfastly in place. Knowing I was unhappy with my extra pounds, she offered me a challenge over the summer between eighth and ninth grade. First, she had a dietician at the hospital where she worked draw up a healthy diet plan for me to follow. The second part of the program was a contract between my mother and I agreeing she would pay me one dollar for each pound I lost, plus throw in a whole new wardrobe once my goal weight was achieved. Hey, a dollar a pound was pretty good back then, when a McDonald’s cheeseburger still went for fifteen cents. Aside from the forty dollars I pocketed, and the closet full of lovely new clothes, that shift in my eating habits was to be the beginning for me of a lifetime of healthy eating. Up until that time, I considered cookies, Hostess cupcakes and Twinkies a separate food group.

Conquering my perceived weight issues to some extent, I next slipped quietly into another phase of my young life. I went from being a nearly straight “A” student considered fairly “bright” in some circles, to barely advancing from ninth to tenth grade. This, satisfying the smartest and dumbest part of the adjective string noted above. The reason was not so much I actually became more stupid as the years passed, but rather I discovered boys in my world. Certainly I knew they were around prior to puberty, but viewed them as those annoying little dweebs in class making gassy noises with their hands under their armpits or pulling my hair at recess. Suddenly I saw them in a whole new light. Instead of making me irritated, they made me shy, made my heart beat a little faster, and generally swept me off my saddle shoed feet. Friends, dances, music, dates, proms, and all the other things high school brought to the forefront all stood first in line in front of learning, which had had somehow been demoted to the caboose.

in spite of the diversions and defying all odds I received my diploma. This was not without a few detours and blips on the screen which I will discuss at a later time. After graduation, I enrolled in computer science classes at the junior college, while also managing to obtain my first job. A local moving company had taken me on as a clerk typist in their dispatch office. My salary was to be $300 a month gross. These days that wouldn’t cover groceries.


Balancing a job during the day, and classes at night, didn’t leave much room for socializing. That being said, I still managed to announce my engagement to my first husband before lighting the candles on my nineteenth birthday. He and I had a shared history of eleven days of courtship when I made the announcement to my parents. Was my mother writing this chapter, she would pull the “worst” out of the adjective chain to cover this happy news. Cajoling ensued, bribes were offered, and begging was not off the table. Love, in the end, conquered all, and a date was set and plans were made for a wedding eight months down the road. Pulling the best out if the string to keep things even, we would fast forward to two and a half years later when my husband and I had welcomed a daughter and a son into our lives. We were only destined to share eight years of marriage, but the gift from him has always been these two special beings who have made my life so special.

I have spent most of my time living up to people’s expectations, sometimes even exceeding them, or being an abysmal disappointment. Balance, as I often say, in everything. Today I can say I am the oldest child, and I’m good with that. A little gray around the temples (okay a lot) and some scuff on my shoes may show some mileage, but also I hope they are an indication I have some acquired wisdom and character. I’ve earned what wrinkles are evident by smiling often, accepting some devastating losses, and surviving the trip.

Have a great day. A new president enters the White House and again we turn the page to a new chapter,

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A lot going on in the news of late. Very unsettling way to spend an hour first thing in the morning before consuming your allotted amount of caffeine. Sometimes I just tune it out, opting for something easier on my brain before it gets revved up to its full momentum for the day. I’ve been thinking seriously about exploring meditation or yoga as forms of relaxation. So far these remain in the thinking stage, but at least they are floating around up there with the rest of the things I’m thinking about doing probably tomorrow, maybe the next day, or perhaps this coming weekend.

Usually I am not a procrastinator. Many of the things I was taught as a child were thrown against the wall and ended up sliding back down, but some suggestions actually stuck. One, from my grandmother, was do the thing you least enjoy doing first rather than placing it at the end of the list. That way you get it over with and it doesn’t hang over your head while you’re doing whatever else came before it. I adhere to this in most things. Take bathrooms, for example. I find nothing stimulating in any way about scrubbing the toilet bowl, pulling hair out of the shower drain, or removing soap scum. Do I enjoy a clean bathroom? Certainly. That being said someone has to clean it and low these many years I’ve never noticed any hands going up when I suggested it might be someone other than myself.

At the moment I feel like I’m trying to manipulate an eight man scull with one oar in the water. To begin with, my mother is in a skilled nursing facility recovering from a broken hip. Being an only child, and with my two kids and their families scattered about and busy, this requires a heavy commitment of time on my part. I have groups and appointments that have been moved around and juggled to the point my day planner looks like a five year old scribbled the entries with a kindergarten pencil.

My house, though not large, continues to distribute dust and crumbs at an alarming pace, and though I am taking a stab at keeping up with this progression, sometimes it feels as though I’m losing the race. The thought has occurred to me to hire someone to clean the house, but this thought is generally overridden once I consult my bank account for available funds to make this happen. Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, though a dainty eater insists on removing each kibble from her bowl and chewing it to shreds over the floor creating a pile of large and small debris suitable for keeping a cat shelter going for several months. Yesterday I stepped on a particularly large chunk and spilled coffee all over my pants trying to right myself before I ended up in a bed next to my mother.

Something I have observed when your schedule starts to blink “overload, overload”, is you begin to do really stupid things. Now, I am the first to admit I often do dumb things as a rule of thumb, but I mean really mind numbing idiocy. Yesterday I had to run to the grocery store after being unable to think of one meal I could pull together with yellow mustard and sour cream. Racing though the aisles I piled on whatever looked good, was two for one, and I remembered I was out of and went through the checkstand. It had begun to rain at a fairly heavy pace when I pushed the cart out the front door. Locating my car I pushed the “open trunk” button on my remote and attempted to do just that. Nothing. Fine, now the remote was broken. Again I pushed a button, this time for the car itself. Nothing. Stupid remote, stupid manufacturer, why is it pouring? Finally I looked inside the car to see an In n Out cup sitting in the cup holder. Hmmmm. The last time I’d had an In n Out burger was a year ago. A light blinked in an otherwise dark chamber in my mind allowing a cognizant thought to emerge. “This is not my car.” Got it.

This vein of stupidity has run through my entire week. It’s like a wicked fairy tapped me on the head casting a spell where 40 IQ points were immediately erased from my intelligence quotient, leaving me with the brain capacity of a domestic turkey. This yet another reason you shouldn’t leave me out in the rain. Duh, and more duh. I put my trash out on Thursday which would have been excellent was it not for the fact that was the trash pick up day at my old house. The new house has trash pick up scheduled for Wednesday mornings. I’m sure the gardener will be pleased to note the clippings from last weeks trimmings are still poking nearly to the top of the compost bin. Sorry. Don’t hate me because I’ve been struck stupid. Hopefully, this will pass.

To add to my prefrontal cortex malfunctions, I have a head cold. This means I either need to abstain from visiting my mother or wear a face mask. If you have ever tried to breathe with one of these masks over your nose when your nasal passages are tighter than Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s abs, you would understand why this option is not at the top of my list. That being said, I have opted to rest in place for the day, binge on old movies, and face the mask tomorrow after two or three dosings of Airborne and some rest. Check please.

On another note, I have to say it was wonderful to see the rain. Thankfully summer in the Sierra Nevadas didn’t dole out it’s usual bounty of sweltering days this year. Summer passed on a somewhat milder note keeping devastating fires off the front page as often and making for more tolerable days outside.

With the rain accompanied by the first dusting of snow in the mountains fall is dropping hints it’s just around the corner. There’s something about autumn that stirs my soul more than any other season of the year. The glorious colors bursting forth on the trees, the rich earthy smell after a good downpour, and my three favorite holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas lining up on the horizon.

Cooking begins to cross my mind this time of year as well, Delicious meaty stews, comforting soups, and the king of the birds (at least to eat) the turkey. Yum and more yum.

As the calendar rolls over to October I will begin digging in the storage shed for the Halloween decorations tucked away in their orange bin. Since I have enough bins to start a department store I have found color coding preferable to spending an afternoon opening one lid after another trying to determine what lies beneath it. Red and green for Christmas, orange for Halloween, well you get the idea.

Monday has arrived on the scene again. The week before me is jam packed so I am gearing up to prepare for it armed with the industrial pack of Airborne for my cold and a mega sized cup of coffee to get my blood moving. Have a great week. Take a chance or two, hug your kids often, say hello to a stranger, and discover something new about yourself.

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When someone you love passes away the fragility of life gets pushed to the forefront. Suddenly you become more aware of how quickly time passes and how fleeting your most precious moments. When Rick, my significant other of twenty years, died of cancer last year this was true for me. When diagnosed, his prognosis was six weeks. Forty-two days, forty-two days for him to get a lifetime in order, say his goodbyes, memorize the rich colors of blue decorating the sky, see the stars come out at night and watch the sun rise in the morning. Chemotherapy and radiation allowed us an extra three months, a gift I will always treasure. There are never enough hours to spare, but each extra day gave us another chance to wipe the slate clean before he left on his journey.

Rick’s passing has heightened my awareness, if you will. Before I may have taken life a little for granted as many of us do. One day folds into the next, we plug in our coffee maker, put on our makeup and muscle through our existence. Often our lives are incredibly busy. With each hour fully accounted for, there is little time left over to pause and admire the new rose blooming on the bush by the front door or to catch the hint of sadness in your teenager’s eyes. Even stopping to breathe deeply and be present in the moment can seem an impossible task while a pile of laundry beckons or a client waits to close an important deal. Yet in the end whether the socks get sorted or the product gets shipped is rendered unimportant when you are faced with writing the final chapter of your book.

Immediately following the death of a family member along with dealing with the overwhelming grief, end of life arrangements, and friends and family coming and going, survivors are expected to take care of all the details involved in day to day living. All this is complicated by coping with what is termed “grief brain” making concentration difficult to achieve and scattered behavior more common than not. I actually came out of the store after doing some grocery shopping and after storing my bags in the trunk I seated myself in the back seat of the car. As I was there alone, this probably would appear odd behavior to the casual observer. Not wanting to confirm myself a complete idiot I looked around as if waiting for someone and waited for the area to clear before hopping into the driver’s seat.

To help me cope with everything swirling around me, I began compiling to-do lists. Some lists were compiled by priority of things that had to be done, while others held ideas for things I hoped to do in the future. Many items on my “have to be done” list I have already accomplished. With Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, at my side I have sold my house and moved to a new rental home. Check. Slowly, I have established new routines revolving around living alone rather than sharing space with someone. Check. This week I joined a gym, something not on my list of favorites but a healthy decision, and begin water aerobics tomorrow. Check, check and check. With each step I have moved a little further away from the life I knew and grown closer to the new life I am creating for myself. I have to say it is game changing.

As this year has unfolded I have found myself searching for the path I want to follow. Standing at a crossroads in my life with so many options possible which way do I go? Certainly I must go forward, but do I veer to the right or to the left?

This period of new growth and exploration I refer to as the “unfolding”. For the person going through it may feel as if they have shed their skin leaving their nerves exposed and raw. Life, as it once was completely changes the moment a loved one ceases to be in it. To expound here, the person passing away ceases to be in it in a physical sense. In my case, I feel Rick will be walking along next to me in spirit always.

For a while, and each person experiences this time frame individually, it seems as though there would never be a day when you will feel “normal” again. As time passes, like all wounds, the rough edges begin to smooth and the sun once again will begin to feel warm and welcoming on your face. Hope returns for a future on some level and unless deeply depressed you begin to explore this new life you are left with.

During this period I began to think about my own life. Though I am definitely looking at the downhill slope there are still, God willing and I don’t get run over by the garbage truck, many years to fill. The choice here would be to sit and feel sorry for myself or find a way to live the most rewarding and happy life I can. I chose the latter. I began to think about what I would like to do with myself. If I have been the one to remain behind it stands to reason this in a way is a gift and I did not want to consider it frivolously.

Again I went to my lists. On my list of exciting adventures I hope yet to do visiting the Grand Canyon, for example, is right up there towards the top. Always I have wanted to see this natural wonder. In spite of numerous trips by car across the U.S. the chance to do so has continued to escape me. Definitely I want to try zip lining, and after a recent trip to Lake Tahoe I have added river rafting down the Truckee River as a must do when next summer rolls around. My son recently went parachuting while on vacation in Santa Cruz. Although this sounds intriguing to me on the surface, I have a feeling if faced with an open door and 15,000 feet of open air space below me I might rethink my enthusiasm, most likely shortly after I wet my pants. We shall see. Though included, jumping out of a plane is definitely hovering (if you will) towards the bottom of the line.

Finding myself heading into my golden years with less gold on hand than loose change, traveling extensively is not in the stars for the moment. If my bank account was representative of my desire to see the world I would be floating lazily across the Mediterranean in a private yacht or dining on trays of succulent meats and cheeses at the Rodostamo Hotel in glorious Corfu. Unfortunately, my budget leans more towards a Motel 6 in Barstow and Taco Bell, but one never knows what the next bend in the road will uncover. Perhaps that pesky winning lottery ticket I never purchase will miraculously come floating through the window? One thing I have learned about my years spent on this earth, is you can never discount anything because life, as most of us are aware, is a capricious host serving up surprises with each passing day.

From each experience good or bad we take with us lessons. It is our choice whether or not to draw from these lessons. No matter what the experience there is something slightly life altering we add to our bag after having lived through both the difficult and the soul elevating times. From this experience I have learned to value today for that is what we have. I have learned to remember to say “I love you” every time I leave someone I care about, to make that phone call to a friend even if you’re busy, and to give when and where you can without hesitation. Make it a great and meaningful day.

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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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