Friday, December 31, 2021

Good Start

 


Filled with the excitement of a woman freed from the bondage of work, I found myself chained to the house. I started in the kitchen, happily scrubbing away, mopping and polishing the hardwood floor, scrubbing cupboards and suchlike. It felt good to watch it all come together again. 

Something to make the rest of you feel much better about yourself: As I worked in the kitchen, I popped open the microwave and discovered a baked broccoli-cheese dish. I know you have questions. I have the answer: Christmas Day. Thank God no one else was there. It would have been mortifying. You all just keep this little tidbit to yourselves, okay? 


I moved straight into the livingroom. The tree, tree, tree came down, down, down...We had bought a steamer trunk last summer: 

I thought I had saved a picture of it post cleaning, but alas, I have not. You'll just have to take my word for it that it was trucked home from a dusty storage area. After cleaning,  it was tucked away in a corner of the second floor landing under a grandmother clock. My plan was that after Christmas, I would pack the decorations away in the trunk, instead of hauling it all back up to the attic. Much to my delight I was able to store not just the ornaments, but the gift wrap, tissue paper, gift bags, boxes, and tags in it as well. That will make decorating much easier next year. The only thing that we'll have to go to the third floor is the tree and the nativity. 

I have one more big job to do this weekend: sorting through clothes and taking things to the goodwill. It will have to wait. 

Quite unexpectedly, our quiet pork and sauerkraut dinner for two has gone to a pork and sauerkraut dinner for 7. Tim went out and bought four more pounds of pork and another two packages of sauerkraut. One set of guests are providing the vegetable. Another, cheesecake for dessert. I'm sure it will be a nice catch-up. 

The best part of it is that tomorrow is only Saturday, and I have a whole 'nother day to pull it all back together before I go back to work on Monday. 

That, my friends, is a good start to the new year. 

Happy New Year, everyone!


Thursday, December 30, 2021

Happy New Year

 Today, they came around and told us we could leave at 11:30. It's hard to know what's going on, but I did not look a gift horse in the mouth. I have a 3.5 day weekend, I'll spend part of it undecorating the house and getting everything back to rights, but it will also be nice to have some true R and R. 

Happy 2022. Don't let it scare you that it sounds like '2020, too', when you say it. 

At our house, the traditional New Year's day meal is pork and sauerkraut. I do not know why. Tim doesn't LIKE pork and sauerkraut despite his German name.

Levi tells us that it is their traditional New Year day meal as well. The Amish also explain it. Pigs nose forward, and you should always move forward in the New Year. He cautions that you should never eat chicken on New Year Day. Chickens scratch backwards and that is a bad way to start a new year. 

What are the holiday traditions in your neck of the woods?




Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Riddle Me This

 This morning, early, I was awakened by the phone, and because I'm not one of those people who wake up wide awake and ready to think, I laid in bed logic-ing it out in my head...'there's the phone...it's 4 AM...I wonder who would be calling at 4 AM...' At some point, it occurred to me in my fog that it might be important and that I should get to the phone and find out who it was.

Of course, by the time I got that far along in my thought process, the phone had quit ringing and gone to the machine, and the caller hung up. 

I looked at the area code on the caller ID and thought it was my son's and daughter-in-law's area code, although the number wasn't familiar. Was my son traveling this week? Had something happened? 

I re-dialed the number, and got a incoherent grunt into the phone. The person on the other end of the line was also not a person who wakes up wide awake and ready to think. 

I did not fall back asleep before the alarm went off and it was time get ready for work. 

So I was extra tired this morning and that 10 hour day loomed larger than usual. 

Except...there's a problem with the trucks, and we got in very little work today. They announced that we were only working 8 hours today, 8 hours tomorrow. I was a happy little camper, believe you me. 

I sat down on the couch at about 6:30 and that is the last thing I remember. I fell so soundly asleep, such a deep and sound sleep and it was all I could do to get me off the couch. 

So why is it, once in my cozy flannel night gown, teeth brushed, I climb into my comfortable bed, with my two pillows just perfectly arranged...why, WHY is it that I am suddenly wide awake. I grumbled about it to Tim and he laughed. "Maybe we should just move the sofas into the bedroom."

And it was an eyeblink, and he was snoring. 

Sunday, December 26, 2021

STOP!


This whole Christmas story started at the beginning of July to be exact. We had been nosing around an antique store and Tim saw this: 

It is cast iron, heavy as...well...a chunk of cast iron, and he stared at that for a long time. 
I said, "Well, if you want it, why don't you just get it?" 

I could see him waffling about it, but in the end, he decided against it. 

But he came home and googled it and discovered that it was from the 1920s and they sold for as high as $1600 on line, which was a shock. 

(I don't understand it either, but I've got a nickel plated grill for a Model T commercial truck in one of the guest rooms and I don't know why, other than 'isn't it pretty?')

~answer: 'not to me, really, but to each his own'~

Anyways, he cogitated on that sign for a couple days, saying, "I should have just gone ahead and bought it...." but would always wind up with why it wasn't sensible. 

(Side note: there was no discussion about this while he was looking at a nickel plated grill for a Model T, but men's minds are a strange and twisty thing, sometimes) 

Anyhow, I pulled my sister aside and told her I was going to buy it for Tim's Christmas. 
It was very carefully planned out. I borrowed the money from her and paid it back over the course of a month, sneaking it out in dribs and drabs. If Tim had noticed a $250 withdrawal from our account, he'd have put 2 and 2 together and guessed what I was up to. I messaged the dealer, and told him that I was coming for it and not to sell it. I told Tim I had to work overtime when I didn't, and my sister and I drove to Corry to pick it up. We dropped it off at her house where it was hidden away, and despite a major road detour, I managed to get myself home at the right time. Tim suspected nothing. 

Which is why he announced the very next day that he'd decided to head back to Corry and get that stop sign. I was horrified. I messaged the man once again and said, "Listen here, when he shows up, you lie to him just like I've lied to him multiple times this week!"   When Tim walked up to him and told him what he was there for, I stood in the background giving the man major stink eye. But the shop keeper was obviously a puller of legs too. He said, "Oh, that's gone. Not too long after you looked at it, a guy came along and bought it." Tim was very disappointed, so he bought a weather vane to make himself feel better. Then the helpful shopkeeper said, "I got some more traffic signs if you want to look at them..." and Tim did and found another one he liked though not nearly as much, and...then, 'say, what's that over in the corner, there...which led to another story, and another addition to the pile up front. 

At that point, I gave up and bought myself a clock to make myself feel better.

Anyways...

I sent Tim out to bring in something from the trunk of my car Christmas morning. My trunk popped open and he stood there for quite a while. 
 From the look on his face, I had managed to pull off an actual surprise, 
It does not often happen, but oh, how I love it when it does!





Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Merry Christmas

 A friend re-posted one of those facebook memories, something she'd forgotten. The gist of it is that her family was home for Christmas, and she was happy and just filled with Christmas joy. When her phone rang, she picked it up and greeted the caller with a 'Merry Christmas!' and was met with silence. Finally a voice said, "I think that I have the wrong number." 

She laughed and wished him a Merry Christmas anyway, and went on about her business. 

Her phone rang again, and she repeated her greeting. It was the same man. She laughed and said, "You again???" and he confessed that he was having a tough year getting into the holiday spirit and that her greeting was so joyous that he had felt more cheerful just for hearing it. He just wanted to tell her that. 

She took a moment to talk with him, and discovered that he'd lost both his parents in the same year, and when his sister became quite ill, he'd taken on a lot of responsibility in caring for her. He was overwhelmed and not feeling very Christmas-y. 

Pam listened and offered up small encouraging words. When they hung up, she told him that he was welcome to call her on those difficult days when he just needed to hear a cheerful voice. 

Her point was that the small things matter. 

Today was also the last day of school before Christmas break. At school,  kids collect tokens for good citizenship and for helping others. William is always flush with these tokens since he is a good kid who loves to be helpful and is really unfailingly kind. The tokens can be used to 'buy' treats. He saw two kids that did not have treats, and so he redeemed some of his vast token wealth to get treats for them too. 

The small things matter. 

It's been a grueling few weeks at work. Tomorrow is an eight hour day, and then I'm off for three whole days. I'm so glad for that. I've been struggling to be merry myself, and these little stories really lifted my own spirits.

May your holidays be filled with all sorts of small joys, the kind of small things that really truly matter. 

Happy everything, everybody!

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Oh. hey...

The shortest day of the year! My seester's birthday! Christmas around the corner!  

So much excitement. 

There's another one...Tim's last day of work will fall between March 11th and the 18th. 

He's as happy as he can be. Come January 1st, he'll have enough vacation to turn those weeks into four day weeks. 

He's as ready to be done as I am. 

By the time you read this, I'll be down to 24 days. 

Whoot~


Monday, December 20, 2021

Christmas Spirit

 William came into the house clutching a candy cane. His mother and Don had taken him out to see the Christmas lights. Two houses in particular have gone 'all out'. One has a broadcast on a very local radio frequency. You can tune in as you approach the house and listen to Christmas music as the lights blink on and off in time to it. There are a lot of lights. 

Another family begins decorating as soon as they take their massive Halloween display down. Lights and various tableaux. This year there were even people dressed up as characters from favorite Christmas movies. The Grinch. Ralphie in his pink bunny pajamas holding his bb gun. Santa Claus. The cars made their way through as the characters waved, and at the end, they handed out candy canes. 

Sort of the opposite of a parade, I guess. The spectators moved through, and the activity played out along the side lines. 

What a great gift to the community's children in these dark days of covid! 

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Look

 Interesting how things read, isn't it? 

That candle factory in Kentucky

Now it is facing a lawsuit

The New York Times wrote an article on that candle company too, their focus being that the tornadoes had destroyed the community's major employer. 

What is the truth of the matter? I think the truth always lies somewhere in the middle. 

From my own experience with mandatory overtime, I can tell you for a fact that there is something called implied threat. You are told it is mandatory. You are told that you have to be there. You will written up if you are not. You know that those write-ups can lead to termination. That threat is held over you. If the company is one of the major employers in the area, that's a big threat, losing a job in an area where jobs are hard to come by. 

How do you explain the two divergent views from employees? Some employees talk about how the people you work with become family to you, and what a wonderful place to work it was. Others speak of it as a sweatshop, concerned only about getting the candles out the door. 

I can explain that. 

Remember when I stood in a meeting and said that suddenly deciding on mandatory overtime was unfair during a holiday weekend? 

How I got called into an office? How the main thrust of their outrage was at me for 'ridiculing a supervisor'? Their claim that other employees were outraged at me for my comments? 

That is the way it is. When you work in a company like mine, you get additional training, you get opportunities based on the choices of your supervisors. Period. It is not skill or talent. It is whether you are liked by your supervisors. Under these dynamics, there will always be those folks who will ingratiate themselves to their company no matter what. No. Matter. What.

This is a company with a long history of labor complaints

Even though the company says that any employee was free to go, "the company’s chief executive officer, Troy Propes, told Fox News on Sunday that workers were told to shelter inside the factory’s bathrooms, which had window-less concrete walls and a steel roof. Management did not want to evacuate the building and send workers out into the approaching storm, Propes said."

Note that the company had a two hour warning that dangerous storms were due to come through. Two hours! Even as it denies that the company refused to let people leave, its CEO is saying that the decision to keep the employees was based on their concern for those employees. Whatever spin you want to put on it, it is clear to me that the employees were being discouraged from leaving. 

I will also bet you bucks that there were midlevel supervisors who were telling people they'd be fired if they left. I guarantee it. Know why? Because those midlevel supervisors got their positions by pleasing the powers that be. If the CEO isn't going to close down the factory, the job of the midlevel supervisors is to make sure the company continues to run. End of story. 

Watch these things unfold with an open mind and eyes, because you will see the reality of millions of Americans in low-paying dead end jobs. 




Saturday, December 18, 2021

Chains

 After the third week in a row of 10 hour days, I began to hear that we would, once again, be working Saturday. 

I was tired. Just plainly tired. Tired of trying to fit everything into one lone Sunday. While I'm grateful that I am an early shopper, still, there were the little things that I was not able to do. I haven't sent our Christmas cards. I have not baked one Christmas cookie. William and I have a tradition. He and I go out to do the Christmas shopping for his mother and Don together. We come home and we wrap those things, and it makes him very excited to sneak them under the tree when he thinks that no one is looking. 

But this year, I just haven't had the time. 

I kept thinking, 'only one more weekend...if it doesn't get done this weekend, it's not going to happen', and that made me determined to (at the very least) get our shopping tradition done. It's a big part of William's joy. 

But then, I heard them regretfully discussing the fact that we would be required to work Saturday again, on top of those 10 hour days, our third 58 hour week. I mulled it over and then I went to talk to my supervisor. "I'm sorry," I told her. "I have plans and I cannot work Saturday. Truth be told, I don't think I'll be working the two hours overtime Friday night." 

She didn't say anything, but she did not look happy with me. To be honest, I was beyond caring. I'm tired to death. A little boy (he would hate to hear me call him that...he is almost a teenager in his mind) would be missing out. I went back to my desk and returned to work. 

Later that day, she let me know that my time off request was approved. In my mind, their approval was merely a formality, but I thanked her anyway. 

So I left work Friday on time and I came home. William got dropped off and he was excited to do his Christmas shopping. Quite surprisingly, Grandpa even joined us. William carefully selected his presents. We also got the makings for our Christmas cookies. 

Saturday morning, I slept until I woke up (8AM) and then made french toast and sausages for breakfast, and we quickly got that cleaned up so that we could begin our baking day. We made four batches of cookies: iced sugar cookie cutouts, molasses cookies, date filled cookies and chocolate chips. 

Once that was done, William and I sat down and wrapped his gifts together, and he curled the ribbons, tied on the candy canes and carefully filled out the labels. He lay across the carpet when we were done, dreamily watching the bubble lights. As he played with some gold garland, it reminded him of Jacob Marley who wore the chains he forged in life and he explained to me what that meant. 

I listened, acting as if I never properly considered it before. 

I'm glad I put my foot down. I didn't lie. I had plans. Important ones. More important than work.

Because one day, I too will wear the chains I forged in life. 



Christmas Shopping

 Tim is a good person, but he's never really mastered the art of gift giving. It's not for lack of a teacher. Lord knows, I've tried. But despite all that, there's still those bright and shining moments when (Tada!) I open a gift bag (he also hates to wrap) and pull out my bright and shining new can opener. 

He's getting better. He knows how I love my earrings, and so he will buy a half dozen pairs of them and call it good. The same with candles. 

This year it began once again: 'What should I get you for Christmas?' 

This year, buoyed by the fact that he actually participated in decorating the tree, I tried again. "Tim, look at me." 

He looked.

"What are things that I like?" 

And he looked.

"We've been married for 24 years. Surely, you can think of things that I like."

He looked. Cleared his throat. "Sweaters?"

"Yes! I do like sweaters. Big bulky ones, no turtle necks or cowl necks..." 

"What are those?" he asked in a confused sort of way.

I sighed (inwardly). "Don't get me anything around my neck. I hate things around my neck. What else?"

"Earrings?"

"Yup." 

"Scented lotions and soap?"

"Okay." 

And he looked. 

"What about long flannel night gowns?" I asked him. 

He nodded.

"Warm socks." 

He nodded again. 

I said, "Now think of the things that I use," and I began to list of necessaries, providing him brand names. 

I said, "That's how you Christmas shop, Tim. You don't wander around stores looking for things that I might like. You pay attention to me and NOTICE. You have some ideas before you even walk in the store."

Tim took Friday off. He has vacation to burn off before the end of the year. He announced he was going Christmas shopping. Friday night, when I got home, he was a very happy man. He got his Christmas shopping all done. He was smiling little secret smiles all night long. At one point, he said, "Can I give you your main present now?" 

I looked at him shocked. "NO!" I said. 

He said, "It's so cool..." and smiled again. 

I said, "I know what you're up to, mister!!! You're trying to get out of wrapping." 


Thursday, December 16, 2021

Millie

 I was working and listening to a podcast when suddenly I heard a loud wail, followed by sobbing. Startled, I turned around. The guy behind me was surrounded by people and he was crying hard.

I kind of knew, in my heart, but I waited quietly, holding my earbud in my hand. 

My co-worker was taken off life support. 

At lunch time, another friend, looking at her phone, said, "Debby? She's gone." 

We sat quietly, teary eyed. 

Suddenly, with great emotion, the woman blurted out, "I don't understand the anti-vax people. I never will. The statistics don't lie. She died because she didn't get the shot. People just need to shut up and get the damn shot." She collected her garbage in a rush and headed for the trash can. 

Not one person argued. 

At random times this day, I found myself crying over something that suddenly popped into my head. I would stop to wipe my eyes. I didn't feel self conscious about it because I was not the only one. 


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Tired

 Yesterday, I heard that a coworker had been transferred to a big city hospital. She is on a respirator and in a medically induced coma. 

On the heels of that, I had to listen to the Covid Air Quote man. He was just back from a two week break due to his positive covid test. I put in my ear bud and listened a DateLine murder mystery. It was preferable to hearing his complaints about any person could have covid and not know it, so it was stupid that he had to stay home. 

I don't understand the logic. The self centered thinking. The only thing that mattered was that he lost two weeks of pay. It never once crossed his mind to think, "God, I hope I didn't give Covid to M."

This morning, I heard that her kidneys have failed and that it looks pretty bad for her. It made me teary to think of it. We sat, socially distanced, but beside each other at lunch. We talk.  She's a very kind person. 

Did she catch covid at work? Who knows? 

But what I do know is that I'm very tired of hearing that it's a violation of privacy that we be told officially about the covid cases instead of rumors. When I was in the Army, I did some work with epidemiology and did contact tracing for STDs. When someone was called to be told they had been exposed to gonorrhea, they figured out in pretty short order who had clap. 

Public health and safety take priority over privacy. It has always been that way. 




Lazy Day



Me, on Sunday. After two long work weeks in a row, 


And so, Sunday morning, I got up when I was done sleeping. 
I drank my coffee in a leisurely way while reading blogs (gosh, I missed you all!) 

I also decorated the Christmas tree because I need a good jolt of holiday cheer. 
Tim even helped. He was excited because over the summer I scored two strings of bubble lights when two friends moved into a smaller house and began jettisoning things.
 

I wrote about Tim's 'thing' for bubble lights last holiday season. He's no less pleased with them this year.  As soon as I came down stairs with the lights, he was off the couch and helping. He even got rather fussy about making sure that the different colors were not positioned right next to each other.

 I enjoyed having him take part. 

Other than wrapping a few gifts, running the vacuum, and doing a few dishes, I did not do doodly squat and boy did it feel good. Back to work Monday morning, another 10 hour day, but at least I felt like I've had a break. 


Late Edit: When I got home from work, Tim had the tree plugged in. 

It tickles me how much he loves those bubble lights. 


Monday, December 13, 2021

The Great Coffee Crisis



There's got to be a morning after...


AC? When you discover that you have run out of coffee at 5 am while you're standing in your jammies in the middle of your kitchen, and you still have a husband to get out the door to work before you have to be at your job at 6:30...well...not a lot of time to be waiting at the local Tim Horton's. 

All was not lost. I could have had a vending machine coffee, but...ack....

So on that bleak morning, I dumped all the remaining coffee into the little brew cup, and I made the weakest cup of coffee ever. Still it was enough caffeine to get me where I needed to be. (Just barely...)

Andrew? Of course there was coffee for the next morning! What do you take me for? I would have walked 2 miles, in a blowing blizzard, up hill both ways to get coffee. I didn't need to, mind you. I just left work that night, drove to the local store and bought some on the way home. (But if it had been warranted, I'd have totally trudged through that blizzard). 

Now, I did not go to my local Aldi's. I was tired, and I just wanted to get home, so I just stopped at the grocery store in the middle of town. I don't usually go there. Once when I went to buy some wine coolers on a hot day, I stood in line. They had warm wine coolers that you could buy for one price, while the ones from the cooler were higher priced. Since I was headed to camp, I didn't need them cold. The cashier rang me up at the higher price. I pointed out that I had got them from the rack. He pulled a bottle from the 4 pack and cupped it in his hand. "This is a cold one. I can tell," and he looked at me like a liar.

It's the principle of the thing, plus the fact that if you really want to fire me up, imply that I am dishonest. I'd gotten them all from the rack, so I refused to pay the higher price. I also complained to the manager on the way out.  He agreed that the employee had behaved badly, and that he would be talked to, and I left knowing full well that it wasn't going to happen. So I boycott the place as much as possible. 

However I needed coffee. And I was tired. 

Which was how my work weary, sleep deprived self came to be standing in the middle of an entire aisle of coffee. As far as the eye could see (disclaimer: I am near sighted) there was coffee. Probably 50 different brands, each with their own blends and flavors (ick!) and strengths. The prices were as varied as the brands. 

It's been a while since I've bought coffee anywhere but Aldi's and my choice is really no choice at all: Fair Trade German Roast. It's what I always get, and at this point, I don't even think about it. Even if I did though, the choices are confined to an endcap display, and once you weed out the k-cups and the flavored coffees, you are left with a pretty limited number of choices. (Fine by me.) 

I wandered along that vast collection of coffees and began to winnow down those choices, and finally got things down to a manageable selection. One brand stood out. It was a familiar name, one that I've always associated with 'luxury'. I had never actually tried it before (at least as far as I knew). It was not nearly as expensive as I thought it would be. I grabbed the gold bag and headed to the checkout. 

The next morning, I opened my bag of Swedish coffee and emptied it into the canister. It smelled nice, but I shuddered a little to read about the light citrus flavor with just a hint of caramel. What on earth had I done?  My cup brewed. My milk frothed. I suspiciously took my first sip and...

...I didn't notice any real difference in my morning cup. 

Thank goodness.




Saturday, December 11, 2021

A Christmas Miracle


 When my children were little, it was a 'thing': Every year we brought them an ornament, and every year they hung their ornaments on the tree. When they were old enough to strike out on their own, the ornaments were given to them for their own tree, so that they had a collection of ornaments that came with happy memories already attached. 

Grandma Violet made one of these toy soldiers for each of the children. 
They were tags on gifts.



 

My son sent me a video. "How long do you think the batteries last in these things?" 

The answer appears to be 'up to 31 years...' 

She was a wonderful grandmother. A wonderful great grandma. I am sure that she would have been just as wonderful as a great great grandmother. 



Friday, December 10, 2021

Emergency

 I got up this morning and headed for the kitchen and coffee. The canister was nearly empty so I opened the cupboard to grab the next bag of coffee. But there wasn't one.

I survived this catastrophe. 


Thursday, December 9, 2021

This Week

After a spate of 10 hour days and a mandatory Saturday, I had one day to get the house cleaned and the laundry done and the groceries bought...Except that there was a retirement party for my brother in law, and I was making macaroni and cheese for 100, and the party was so much fun, but that meant I did not get the house, laundry, groceries, etc. done before it was a new work week with another spate of 10 hour work days. They announced that we are working Saturday today. 

So. I'm tired. 

You know how I know I'm tired? I know I'm tired when I look around and see how many clocks have stopped because I've forgotten to wind them. 

That always makes me grumpy at myself. 

But today at lunchtime, the local high school put out a bulletin that any student that felt the need to leave school could, but they were suggesting that parents make sure the kids were not alone, and that grief counselors were at a local church. 

WTH? 

Startled, I began scrolling through social media and found out in pretty short order that a 14 and a 15 year old student have committed suicide in unrelated incidents in the past two days. 

Now I am just sad. 




Saturday, December 4, 2021

Memory

 You know how facebook comes up with their 'on-this-day-memories'? Here is mine from 5 years ago: 

One of William's favorite things is slime. We make our own. When I found a recipe for gingerbread slime, I decided that it would be a nice project. So yesterday, he was at our house for a few hours, so we whipped up a batch. He poured in the glue and water, added the ginger and cinnamon, stirred it all up and began to add the glitter. He was shaking it out, and it was coming out very slowly. It would have taken an awfully long time I was off to the side mixing up the borax solution, and so I said, helpfully, "If you want, you can unscrew the top and dump it in, if you want." With his keen ear for rhymes, he said, "'Screw' and 'you' rhyme!" 

Wincing a little, I said, "Yes, they do. Well done," and as he stirred the glitter in to his mixture, he began softly chanting, "Screw you. Screw you..." 

I said, "What rhymes with yellow.?" We came up with fellow, hello, bellow, jello... 

Crisis narrowly averted.

Irritated

Last night after getting off work at 5, I was rushing. I had to get cash out of one bank account and deposit it at another. The banks close at 6, so I was cutting it close. I also had to pick up some pearls that I'd gotten restrung as a Christmas gift. It was one of those things that turned out to be pricier than I expected, but I knew that it would be a big deal for the recipient, so I went ahead with it. 

I am seriously out of my element in a jewelry store. I am not a jewelry person. I never have been really. I love my earrings, but other than that, I don't really wear jewelry, ordinarily speaking.

So there I was, in the middle of one of these high end jewelry stores, where people glide by on little cat feet, and the music is muted, the lighting tasteful. Standing there tired from work and hungry to boot, I was anxious to get home, but this was not something that was to be rushed. There was photo ID verification and then the pearls were brought out and they had to photograph them to be able to match it to before and after pictures if necessary.  Of course, she has having trouble with the tablet. 

I really try hard to be patient. I am not the most technologically proficient person in the world either, so I wasn't faulting the girl. It's just that I was sooooo hungry, and I was tired, and I was cold and achey, probably from my booster. All I reeeeeeeally wanted was to head for...heeeeeey! Startled, I leaned into look at the pearls a bit more closely. 

I said to the girl, "These pearls aren't graduated," and I pointed out the mistakes. There were 3 places where small pearls had been tucked in between noticeably larger pearls. 

The girl said, "No. They are not. I am really surprised WE didn't catch that,' and she called an associate over who looked at the pearls and agreed that the mistakes were pretty obvious. I groaned inside,  because I still had one more stop to make and I had to be there before six. 

They said that they would contact the repair company and send them back out to be corrected. They assured me that they would be back before Christmas. They asked me to wait as they called the repair company. 

I did wait, hands in my coat pockets, listening while she spoke to 'Ray'. She explained the problem and Ray evidently disagreed. She examined the pearls and listened intently, holding them to the light, and making squinty eyes. Much to my surprise, I heard her saying, "Yes. I agree with you" and "No. You're right" and words that made it quite clear to me that nothing was going to be resolved. 

By the time that she hung up the phone, I could tell that this was not going to be resolved to my satisfaction, so I said, "They're not going to make this right, are they?" 

She defended their work. 

I said, "What really bothers me is that two employees here looked at the pearls. You agreed with me, and made the call, and now suddenly, you've decided the job is satisfactory. I'm not happy with that change." 

She said, "We can send the pearls out to be restrung." 

I asked her what the point of doing that would be. They were not to be held to a standard this time. I couldn't reasonably assume that it would be any different the next time. 

She looked uncomfortable. 

The store manager glided over. The discussion had been a quiet one (I am not a fan of big noisy public scenes) but it evidently disturbed the feng shui of the gracefully elegant shop. I don't know.

She asked if there was a problem. I told her there was. I explained that two people had agreed that my string of pearls had been restrung out of sequence until they spoke to the repairman who had changed their minds. I was quiet but firm, "This is unsatisfactory, but there is no point in debating it, because at the end of the day, you have my pearls and I will need to pay you to get them back. What I do know is that I will never do business here again." 

She said smoothly that she was sorry to hear that. 

I paid the bill and I left. 

Oysters turn their irritations into pearls. Me? I drowned mine with a hot cup of soup and two ibuprofens and reminded myself that in the grand scope of the world's problems, this was not a biggie.


Friday, December 3, 2021

Argh.

 Mandatory overtime for Saturday AND ten hour days next week. 

This is not cool. 



Thursday, December 2, 2021

A Decision is Made

When we work 10 hour days, we have the choice of going in at 6:30, a half hour early. The benefit of that is that you get to leave at 5, instead of 5:30. Since I am a great fan of getting out of Dodge just as quick as I can. I invariably go in 1/2 hour earlier. 

This morning, I got Tim out the door and then, with my coffee, retreated to the computer for my 20 minutes before I headed for the shower. I sipped my coffee, browsed, but then, all too soon, it was time for me to head for the shower. 

I looked at my half cup of coffee and decided that it was a full cup day. I drank my coffee and went in at 7. 

I don't really notice the extra half hour in the morning, but believe you me, it drags at the end of the day. 

Covid booster tonight.

Tomorrow is Friday.

Work

 Well, yesterday at morning meeting, they gave the 'covid briefing'. In the middle of it, one of the scoffers who happened to be standing next to me began scoffing (as they do) when they spoke of the social distancing. His wife works there, and he began his rant, 'We sleep in the same bed. We live in the same house..." He is a bit of a brownnoser, so he was not being loud enough for the supervisors to hear, but he wanted to make sure that anyone in his vicinity knew what HE thought about covid. 

I turned to him and said plainly, 'They have already addressed the issue of people who live together."  I stared at him. He stared at me. He muttered. "Yeah, I know." I said, "Well, it sounded as if you missed it." He was quiet for the rest of the meeting.

During the course of this meeting, they also said, "There are not any cases in our department." 

Listening, I thought, 'Well, that's nonsense. When they are sending people out to be tested, there HAS to be positives in our group.' 

At break, someone said that what they had actually said was "There are not ONLY cases in our department." 

That makes a lot more sense. 

There are two people out with covid. The two people they sent out to be tested Tuesday did not return to work yesterday. I'm not sure what's going on in the rest of the building. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Change

Remember the fellow who put 'covid' in air quotes when asked about a co-worker who died from it? 

And, do you remember how I told you all (probably multiple times) that I can be a pretty oblivious person? It's worse now. My life has been changed at work by podcasts. I plug something in and I listen and I work. 

Anyways, on break, I became aware of some chatter. Two people who came to work were shipped out for covid tests. They haven't come back to work. They were told to get tested or to take the next two weeks off. One of them, ironically, is 'Air Quotes'.

That's certainly a change from when I was sick, and was handed a document I was supposed to sign (but didn't) for missing two days of work, a violation of the attendance policy. 

I commented about that change to the person talking. "Something's up," I said. "Are there people missing from work?" 

She looked at me as if I were stupid. "Yeah, that whole back corner..." gesturing. 

Huh. 

I thought they'd all taken a long weekend. 

Maybe...

...maybe not. 

Tim and I have appointments for boosters this week. 

Monday, November 29, 2021

Frugalista Note

 We were walking through the toy section of Walmart. I saw something that I knew that William would really, REALLY get excited about. It was a good price, and so it wound up in our cart in pretty short order. I suggested that we get one for another one of the boys. 

Tim made a noncommital noise. He is an exasperating person to Christmas shop with. I suggested he make a phone call. 

He left his phone at home. Of course, I don't have the number. 

I made grumpy noises as I finished up and we left the store. It just seems to me that he could be a bit more proactive about getting ideas at Christmas time. 

When I got home, I reached out on facebook, and in fairly short order, I had the Christmas idea list. One boy would love the thing that I got for William. The other wanted something pretty badly as well. By then, Tim was heavily involved in a football game. We had just gotten home. I didn't want to go back out so I went to the Walmart website. They offer free shipping, so...why not? It would save a trip back to a crowded store. Except the toy that I'd just paid $20 for at the store was $42 online, much to my surprise. The other gift was $5 more online than the price I'd been quoted from the store. 

Faced with the decision between paying $72 dollars for toys that I could get for $45 if I went back to the store, I resolutely put my coat on and went back out. 

At that price difference, they surely should be offering free shipping. 


Saturday, November 27, 2021

Cider with Rosie

 A couple weeks ago, Northsider discussed an author I had never heard of. I googled Laurie Lee and ultimately ended up ordering a book, a one volume collection of his autobiographical trilogy. 

I am currently immersed in 'Cider with Rosie', and it is beautiful, a perfect book for winter evenings. 



The Little Happies

Last year, we got our granddaughter a little dollhouse for Christmas. During my last trip there, I noticed she was much excited about Halloween, and there was nothing more thrilling than playing 'trick or treat'. So I got the idea to let her play Christmas with her 'guys', which is her collective name for the array of little people who live in her dollhouse.
 
Santa is coming to the dollhouse, and he has tiny little stockings to be hung on the stairwell. 
(They are on a sparkly pipecleaner to make it easier to attach them).'The Guys' have the little tree up and ready for the tiny gifts Santa is bringing to go beneath it.
It looks as if 'The Guys' have been very good this year, doesn't it? 
They have a mailbox filled with tiny little cards in tiny little envelopes from familiar people.

Outside the dollhouse, it has snowed. (Two packages of flocking will make that magic.) The guys can go sled riding. They can build a snowman. If the snowman wants to come to life and play with 'The Guys', that's perfectly acceptable as well. Anything can happen when you live in a dollhouse and are loved by a 3 year old with a wonderful imagination. 

There are other things: a wreath for the front door. A string of battery operated lights to go across the roof. Today I will work on the cookie sheets to slide in and out of the little oven. I could go nuts here, but it is time to get it all packed up and on its way. 

As always, I have a cheap phone, and I am not a photographer, so my apologies to the people who are. You will have to use your imaginations, I guess. 

*Smile*

LATE EDIT: I don't want to mislead everyone and have you thinking that everything is handcrafted. It's not. I'm not especially clever at things like that. Santa is a tree ornament. So is the snowman and the sled. The tree is a premade thing for a Christmas village with glittery foam decorations. The wreath is actually a rolled up bit of trim with tiny fake berries that I did not unroll...I simply added a ribbon. The lights, a dollar store find. I'm not a crafter, but I have an eye for seeing things and seeing how they could be used in the narrative. 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Thanksgiving

 It is Thanksgiving morning, the turkey is in, the cranberry sauce done, the relish trays and dip made, and two loaves of bread (one pumpkin, one zucchini - both from the garden) ready to be sliced and placed on the platter. These things are my contribution to my sister's family Thanksgiving. She always makes a ham, a veritable mountain of mashed potatoes, and a few pies. My brother in law usually puts together his special bean recipe. Everyone else who comes brings a dish to pass. Blessing is said at one, and then people eat, moving along the tables as if they are at the world's most spectacular all-you-can-eat buffet. 

I'm looking forward to it. We missed it last year. I guess that I don't have to explain why. 

Last night was a flurry of activity. I got off work at 5, and I was just tired, but I couldn't stop. I had work to be done. My daughter and Don came, and I groaned a little, because I had so much to do, but I set them down at the table with knives and set them to work, and they did so cheerfully. The relish trays were made up, and the stuffing was diced up. I focused on making the bread. Don simmered the celery and onions together in the butter, and made the cranberry sauce. By the time that the breads went into the oven, every thing was in place to stuff the turkey. Everyone was washing dishes as they were dirtied, so once that turkey was stuffed and in its roaster ready to be popped in the oven at 6:30, all that was left was to whisk off the old table cloth, shake it out, and throw it in the hamper and replace it with a new one. 

By then William was hungry again, so he had a turkey sandwich as we sat around the table and visited. 

That's something to be thankful for there...I was done by 8:30. Working alone, I'd have been working until midnight. 

I woke up at 4:30, as usual, but I willed myself back to sleep. Finally, in the end, I was sleeping so soundly that when 6:30 rolled around, it was Tim who got up and put the turkey in the oven. 

When I finally did get around to getting up, it was nearly 8:30. It felt good to sleep in, and it feels good to be sitting in front of the computer leisurely drinking my coffee while turkey roasts in the oven. 

Another thing: my hibiscus is blooming again. It has been putting on quite a show. Nearly every week or so, I come out to another showy salmon colored bloom. It lasts for a day, and then drops, but the thing is covered with buds all of them seeming to be queued up and waiting for their chance to shine. My begonia is blooming, and the Thanksgiving cactus that belonged to my great grandmother is putting on its own show. In the livingroom, the African violets and the cyclamen sit on the antique treadle sewing machine, putting on their display for their corner of that room. After a summer in the green house, my plants are crazy, vines vining, spiderplants spidering, and every green thing showing exuberant new growth. I think that I will have flowers all winter long! 

That's it really, just a quiet morning, appreciating every good thing that I've got to be thankful for. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Even if you're not eating turkey, I hope you take a moment to count your blessings. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Decorating for Christmas

 This weekend, I got a Christmas project for my grand-daughter almost completed. It was so much fun. 

Last year for Christmas, I got her a dollhouse which she loves. So...I have been making Christmas decorations for it: A Christmas tree, a wreath for the little door door, A little mailbox with tiny little Christmas cards in their own tiny envelopes to open, stockings to hang, even a set of battery operated lights for the roof. A couple trays of 'cookies' to slide in and out of the tiny oven.  A snowman to sit on the sparkly blanket of 'snow' that will drape under the house, and even a sled for 'the guys' (that's what she calls the residents of her dollhouse). Even a Santa Claus and a small pile of gifts for him to put beneath the tree.

She's got such a wonderful imagination and the best part of it is that her little imagination has re-sparked my own. Every time that I think that I'm done, I think of something else to add to the little collection!


Monday, November 22, 2021

Josh

It was a bit of a shock to hear that a coworker had died of covid. He was a good person, a burly, bearded guy. When I worked down at the other building, I usually assisted his team. So... I knew him. I thought he was a very nice person, a devoted dad, and husband. 

A current coworker also worked with him, so this morning, I said, "It was sad to hear about Josh." 

Another person said, "Josh who? What happened?" 

And my coworker said, "A guy we used to work with in the North Building. He supposedly died of covid." His fingers made air quotes and his eyes rolled. 

I do not understand this world. 

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Love and Plague

 My county has the third highest death rate (per capita) in the state of Pennsylvania. It's a little  sobering to me to see that while we are losing a great many of our elderly, covid has also begun to affect the younger people. A couple weeks ago, two mothers in their forties were lost. In the past three days, a old coworker lost her younger brother, and yesterday, a fellow that I used to work with died of it. 

I wonder how much longer people can continue to argue against masks and vaccines? 

This was on facebook. I usually find my own stories, but this one boggled my mind. I hope I don't get in trouble for retelling it:

A couple walking through the Walmart saw an old classmate, and stopped to visit. His wife was not with him, so they asked after her. Turned out she had died of covid last month. 

They had not heard this and were terribly embarrassed to have brought it up, but the man launched into such a matter of fact retelling of the events that led to her death that at some point, they felt comfortable enough to ask if she had been vaccinated. 

"Nope," the man replied, explaining that they did not believe in that.

"You're not vaccinated either? After all of that?" they asked a little incredulously. 

"Nope," said the man, and went on to tell them that he'd had covid "many times" and that it wasn't a big deal. 

The couple stood gaping and unsure what to say next. 

A woman walked up to the man and stood next to him. "Oh hey, he said, "let me introduce you to my girlfriend."

I read the thing to Tim and he laughed a little at the craziness of our world. 

"Listen," I said, "If I die, Imma need you to fake cry for a bit longer than a month before you take up with your new woman." 

He laughed out loud. 

"I'll haunt you," I said. 

Shocked

 Our newest tenants came to us under pretty tough circumstances. He has terminal cancer. He was so very concerned about making sure that his wife was taken care of once he was gone, and that tenderness was really touching to see. Over and over, he matter of factly stressed that everything was to be in her name because he wasn't going to be here long. 

She stopped in to settle up with rent, and sign the lease. She looked tired. Moving is a hard job. Caregiving is a hard job, but she's a plucky little thing. 

It was shocking to that she'd been hospitalized.

More shocking to hear that she'd been transported to a big hospital. 

Absolutely stunned to find out that she has died. 

Her husband told Tim about it on the phone. 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

56 More Days

I stewed about the work situation all night. I gave myself time to get over my 'mad', and to look at it rationally. What it came down to was what we receive in on a daily basis is roughly what we get done. We are keeping up. It is correct that we are not working on Thanksgiving, but we also will not be getting a delivery on Thanksgiving. There will be no one there to meet the truck. Yes. That might mean we get a bigger volume of work on Friday, but if we do, we would be able to catch up that work the week after Thanksgiving, working overtime then, if necessary. People plan for holidays ahead of time, and travel plans are made, festivities are planned. Announcing 10 hour days and Saturday in the midst of the planning requires changes of plans. 

It could have been done another way, one that showed a bit more consideration of the employees. 

So we had our morning meeting which basically is what we are getting in vs what we got finished. After that, the question is asked, "So, do you have anything for us?"

I said "Yes," and began carefully thought out comments about the overtime. 

One supervisor leaned in to the other and said, "Oh, boy...." 

I said, "Don't do that. I'm trying to be respectful and reasonable here. You cheerfully announce it's Friday, it's payday, everybody is supposed to be happy about that, but really, if you are concerned about morale, I think it's not about being a cheerleader. It's about being considerate of the employees."

Her eyes got wide. 

I went on with my talking, pointing out that we were moving into a holiday season next month, and that I hoped that the company would be a bit more aware of their employees. 

In the end, it was said, in words to this effect: "the decisions made are what is best for the company and that we were welcome to put in for days off if we needed them" (note that they already announced that they were limiting employee time off during this season to meet company needs.) 

When we went to our desks, I got a bunch of 'you're rights', thumbs up, nods of assents, one high five and even a salute.

I also got called to the conference room. 

The manager said, "I hope you are settled down." 

Me: "I'm not angry. I was angry yesterday, but that's why I kept silent yesterday. I spent a lot of time thinking about how to handle this last night."

Turns out they were mad, though. mostly about the fact that I had "mocked leadership", ridiculing the supervisor as being a cheerleader. They also felt quite strongly that the next time I had a complaint I needed to use proper channels, speaking to them privately, not in a group.

I said, "It was a group concern." 

They denied it. 

I said, "Well, there are quite a number of people who were pleased to see the issue brought up." 

They said they had been approached by many people who thought I was completely out of line. I sat there listing them in my head. In any job, there will be those who focus on currying favor with management. I said, "If offense was taken, that was not my intent. I apologize." 

They said that HR was aware of my behavior and they weren't going to write me up 'this time'. 

They can't. Employees have a federally protected right to discuss grievances and to bring them to the attention of management without fear of reprisal. 

The supervisor said in a very stern tone that I was not 'the voice of the people'.

I went back to my desk, and people began to come over to see if I got in trouble. "They're not happy," I said. "They feel that it was brought to their attention via the wrong way." A supervisor watched us from across the room. 

Management's complaint is how I handled my complaint. What is very clear is that they are not receptive to actually addressing my complaint. 



Thursday, November 18, 2021

Putting on my Grumpy Pants.

 I knew that today was going to be a tough day. It was scan day, and anyone who has ever dealt with cancer, knows about 'scanxiety'. It became a real problem for me right off the bat, when I'd go to get the scan, and they'd be unsure about things, so I had to travel to Pittsburgh for a followup. It was always an agonizing, worrisome wait. Finally after a couple times of this, I decided to skip the first step and just go to the big hospital, and for about five years that worked. Then they stopped doing the preventative stuff and wanted me to begin going back to the local hospital. 

Me, being me, simply ignored everything for about four years until my GP got so vocal about it that I just let them set up the appointment and went, like a good little soldier. When I got there, the technician got quite upset because I had a cancer history, and I should have told them. I said, "I didn't make the appointment. Isn't right there in your records?" She was upset, and I was upset because I didn't even want to be there to begin with, and she couldn't understand that either. I said, "Well, it is a scary thing to have things get done here only to be sent somewhere else for a second opinion..." 

She looked at me and said, "That has never happened."

I was a bit gobsmacked. "It certainly did...at least twice..."

She brusquely said, "I've been here a long time, and we've never referred anyone to Pittsburgh."

She was calling me a liar, without saying the word, and it made me mad. She kept saying, "Listen, I don't know what the problem is..." 

By that point, I was done talking, I just wanted the stupid test completed and I wanted to leave. 

Fast forward:

Because I am a butt head, I delayed this scan by a few months too. My GP is pretty persistent, and so once again, the appointment was made. 

I get to the hospital today in all my anxious glory, and the receptionist looked at the paperwork I handed her. "Wait...you've had cancer?" 

Inwardly, I groaned. "Yes." 

She told me that she needed to talk to the technician, and I saw the whole thing playing out again. "We do screenings for people with a history of cancer in the afternoons..." 

Thank god for masks. I said, "Why don't we just reschedule this to a time that works for you?" 

I think she was a little surprised at my graciousness. I was glad that she couldn't read my mind. It was not her fault. I don't even know where the communication breakdown IS, but I simply was not going to do a replay of my previous experience. 

I walked back out to my car in the rain with my new appointment.

I was supposed to go back to work, but I was about fed up with that place too. This morning, they announced that we would be working 10 hour days next week. We are also working Saturday. 

The supervisor said, "That will give you all a chance to make up for losing Thursday." (We do not get holiday pay for Thanksgiving.) She sounded thrilled for us. The reason is that they are afraid that we will get behind. 

So...we will be working long days right up to Thanksgiving, and then working Friday and Saturday on top of it. On a holiday weekend. People travel. Family comes in. People have plans. 

It's bullshit. It's all bullshit. The thing is, we are not behind. If we get one day behind, we can work the over time the following week AFTER the holiday, but to screw up everyone's holiday because we might have a problem? That's bullshit. 

I was not the only angry person there. The place was buzzing. 

So walking through the rain, I was mad about the confusion about the scan. I was mad about my lost holiday weekend. I was just mad. 

I should have gone back to work, but you know what? I took me to Tim Horton's and I got a large vanilla ice capp. I sat in my car and drank caffeine while I watched it rain. And when I was done feeling like I wanted to yell at someone, me and my grumpy pants went back to work.


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

All is calm...

 Today, I came home from work to an empty house. It has been a while since that has happened. I started supper. 

I decided to soak some beans for supper and got my little canister of dried navy beans from the garden. Disappointingly, they were moldy. Note to self: read more about drying beans before next year. 

I dumped the beans into the garbage, and then carried the bag out to the bin. The little cat sat quietly watching me. It has been a while since I saw him. I asked him if he was hungry and he did not say no, so I went inside and got him a dish of kitty kibble. He was waiting patiently, right where I left him. I set his bowl down and talked to him, but he would not come close until I went back inside. I watched him eating from the window in the door.

Tim got home about an hour after I did. His first day back was okay. It seems like they are beginning to run out of work. They handed out more 90 day notices while he was gone. Those people will be gone probably some time in January. His department will be one of the last to go, so no notice for Tim. 

That's it, really. 



Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Mothers and Daughters

 After three weeks off to nurse his elbow, Tim texted me after his doctor's appointment to tell me that he was headed back to work tomorrow morning. He was on his way to work to drop the clearance paperwork off with his supervisor. He said that he wanted to head out after that and do a bit of hunting this afternoon. 

"I'll go ahead and run to the store and get you lunch makings right after work then," I replied. 

Usually the place is packed but it wasn't. When I got to the deli, I was the only customer, which was very nice. There was no one at the counter, but I waited, and it wasn't long before a woman came bustling by. "I'll be right with you. We're short handed, and I'm doing the deli and the bakery. " 

"You're fine. I don't mind waiting." And that was the truth, too. Everyone is short handed these days and the people who are there don't need a bunch of guff from the customers. 

The woman bustled back over and said, "What can I do for you?" 

I asked for two pounds of the turkey, sandwich sliced, and divided between two bags. "I hope I don't sound like one of those customers..." and she laughed. "No, you don't," she said. "That's a pretty common request."

And so we chit chatted while she sliced my turkey, and then while she sliced the cheese. She said that she really enjoyed being busy. "What else have I got to do? My kids are both in college. They need the money." 

She mentioned that her daughter had decided on a school in Connecticut. You could tell she was struggling with that. She said "If I want to go visit her, it's three days of travel time added on to the length of the visit, and that's a lot of work to miss."

Wistfully, she said, "She's not so good at communication," and trailed off. 

I recognized that. Those are hard years to be a parent. Your kids are running full tilt to claim their independence and the last thing they want is their parents. So I said, "It's a tough time. You just have to keep reminding yourself that you raised them to be independent, and now it's time to watch them fly." 

She said, "You're right."

I said, "If it is any consolation, my youngest lives overseas, and I haven't seen her for nearly 3 years. I know that she's happy. That helps, but still..." 

We talked about our girls a bit, and when she handed me the packages of meat and cheese, she said, "Thank you." 

I knew she wasn't talking about my purchase. 

"Good luck to you," I said, 

I finished my shopping and I was glad for that little conversation. I've been missing my daughter a lot. 

"You just have to keep reminding yourself that you raised them to be independent, and now it's time to watch them fly." 

 Sometimes I need to hear me say those words out loud too. 


Monday, November 15, 2021

The Haves and the Have Nots

 Today, I overheard a conversation between two friends.  The speaker is not from our country originally, and her family is still 'back there'. Her nephew was diagnosed with rheumatic heart disease. The next step is taking him to a hospital, something the family is struggling with. The father works, but the mother's job is still shut down due to covid. 

I listened to her talking to her friend across the aisle, about how she could send some money, but it's a bad time for her as well, with the holidays coming and two kids of her own, and she already is sending money to her parents... She finished up, "I really hope we get overtime."

I guess what will always astound me is the differences in wealth. Something that we consider a small amount is lifechanging in a third world country. 

Made anything that I had to complain about seem very trivial. 

Sunday, November 14, 2021

A Letter to Wales

 I have been reading "Counting Steps", Mark Charlton's tribute to the footsteps of life, and what I see, in a life so very different from my own is the similarities of it.

Today he posted Letter To America, Thank you, Mark for your kind thoughts, and for putting words to exactly why it is that I read blogs. 

Kindness is in rather short order in my corner of the world. Pick a topic, any topic, and you've got people who are screaming mad about it. Politics. Covid. Poverty. Education. God. Afghanistan. No matter what the topic, it will be debated hotly. Usually rudely. 

I am not averse to discussion. I think when you put your thoughts out there, you have to be prepared that there will be those who disagree with you and that is okay. Different points of view can be debated respectfully. Too often, it is not. It seems particularly bad where I live and I have lost friends (and family) over some issues. The issues will not be resolved. I don't understand rudeness. I don't understand why they believe that they deserve every blessing, while also believing that others should be deprived of the smallest of blessings. It is unjust and it is heartbreaking. 

And so I withdraw into my world of blogs and bloggers. 

There is unkindness there too. I don't understand commenters totally ignoring the blog post to snipe at each other. I don't understand people who blog controversial ideas and name call those people with different opinions or tell them to 'bugger off'. And trolls...what joy is there in attacking others for the sheer pleasure of causing hurt?

But in the end, I read stories about persistence, about staying the course, about the joys of life, about the things that they question. Some posts are funny. Some quite serious. Some are ordinary. Some are extraordinary (imagine hearing that someone was married right after John and Yoko!)  Some are as well written as any philosophy, some are more like mine, ideas and glimpses and events all cobbled together in a post. 

All of them share one thing: they are a record of your own footsteps through turbulent and difficult times, and I am grateful for them. In a very real way, you are my 'letters' and you come from all the corners of the world. I enjoy you with my morning coffee and I begin my day knowing full well that I have kindred spirits all over. That knowledge alone, makes the world seem a kinder place.

Thank you. 

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Saturday

 Today, William and I spent a pleasant day making a special supper. We baked a cake, made two quiches. We chopped things for an Italian salad. He's pretty cheerful about helping out. He enjoys cooking a lot. He has his own apron. He fried the bacon and sauteed the onions, and boiled the spinach. He sliced the cheese and arranged it at around the bottom of the crust. He decided that he liked the smokey gruyere, so he nibbled while he sliced, and he ate olives and artichoke hearts while we were chopping things for the salad. 

Unfortunately, by dinner time, he didn't like any of it and wouldn't eat, which meant that he did not get his strawberry shortcake for dessert which led to an epic tantrum, something kind of unusual for him. The night was cut short and he was whisked home to soak in a lavender scented bubble bath. He then had the beginnings of another meltdown over a book, and was sent to bed before 7PM. The fact that he didn't argue about it and was asleep almost immediately is a bit suspicious.  Hopefully he's not coming down with something. 

On a recommendation from Northsider, I began looking at the author Laurie Lee. I ordered the book from my favorite place. I got an e-mail today that it's been dropped in the mail from Dunfermline, Scotland. The internet is a wonder, isn't it? 

That's all really. It's cold here and snowing. We're supposed to have 4 inches by tomorrow morning. 

The Garden

 I've got a lot of cabbage from the garden. If you remember, I planted 3 this year. Last year I planted cabbages which were eaten by groundhogs pushing under the fence. Much to my surprise, they came up this year along with the 3 cabbages that were intentionally planted. 

A lot of cabbage for two people, one of whom is pretty sure that he doesn't like cabbage. (Except that when I cook it, he does eat it and pronounces it 'delicious'. I think he means that he doesn't like sauerkraut, which is a whole 'nuther thing). 

When cold weather hits, we eat a lot of soup in this house. I throw the ingredients into the crock pot, let it simmer all day, and get home to supper pretty much ready to put on the table. Just out of curiosity, I googled 'cabbage soup', and found a recipe for a cabbage vegetable soup. It called for a rotisserie chicken, shredded, and chicken broth, which is strange to me.  I just  simmered a chicken breast over night to make my own good broth, chopping the chicken while I waited for my morning coffee to brew. The recipe called for celery, onions, carrots, navy beans, tomatoes, and cabbage along with the seasonings and I had them all in a bowl that I pulled from the fridge, and dumped in with the chicken broth and chicken. 

With the exception of celery, I'd grown every one of those things in the garden, and it was an amazing thing to assemble a meal from the labor of our own hands. 

When I came home from work, the house smelled wonderful. Simmering soup is all the air freshener a house needs, I think. 

Tim walked in from the living room. "I had a bowl of that soup for lunch, Man. It is delicious." 

As we ate supper, I had to agree with him. 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Veteran's Day

I was walking into the cafeteria with my cup of soup. A woman came walking out. She said, "Thank you Debby." 

I was a bit startled. She is not a woman that I interact with. As a matter of fact, I avoid her. She's a gossip. Moreover, she's a malicious gossip. She knows everyone, and her mind is a file of data on all of them.  She's got the kind of mind that connects people, and her favorite tactic is to talk about mutual acquaintances within earshot of you. She is waiting for you to join in the conversation, all the better to collect more information. Her son works on the ambulance crew, and the woman is a walking, talking HIPPAA violation, spewing personal information and names. She also catastrophizes everything. There is nothing so bad that she can't turn it into something worse. More often than not, it not even true. 

Those kind of people? I stay the heck away from them. I know that she'll talk non-stop, her sly little eyes darting left and right as she talks about people. 

Yet here we were. "Thank you, Debby." 

I stopped in my tracks and looked at her. 

She made a prompting motion "You're WELCOME?", staring at me, making it clear that I was extraordinarily rude. 

"What did I do?" I asked her. 

"You're a veteran, right? And it's veteran's day, right? So happy veteran's day!" 

"Thanks," I said, 

Nothing says gratitude like someone trying to make you feel like the bad guy. 

She didn't. 

I wasn't. 

I always wonder what makes a person be like that?

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Better

Me and my back went to bed early last night. I read the first chapter of "Counting Steps" by Mark Charlton. After turning off the light, I lay very still in bed, and pondered the sweetness of his recounting of his hike with his son. I found it very moving, and I fell asleep pondering how different things would be if I had been able to see what I was doing wrong (or maybe what I could have done better) while my kids were still kids, before it was too late to set things right. 

Hindsight is always 20/20. Mark seems to have had the gift of seeing these things in real time, as life unfolded. 

 I woke up this morning just before the alarm, as usual. I moved my legs experimentally, and there was no back pain. I got out of bed and reached for my robe. There were no spasms. Hallelujah. 

I had my morning coffee, and I headed for the shower, and when it came time to dress, I looked suspiciously at my sock drawer before deciding to go with slip on shoes and skip the socks all together. Not taking any chances. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

True Story

AAAAAIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

Back spasms!

I was coming down the dark hall when Tim came out of the living room, scared the wits out of me, since I had not heard him come in the door. Of course, when I jumped, it set off my back yet again. 

"Don't do that...." I said, stiff and gasping. He stared at me dumbfounded. 

What did I do to myself?  I had bent down to put on a pair of slipper socks....how pathetic is that?

Monday, November 8, 2021

The Post Office

 I stood in line waiting my turn. The elderly man behind me was using a walker, and got it tangled up in the rug. The woman behind him got the rug straightened out. I said, "Why don't you go ahead?  I've just got an aggravation that will be quick enough to sort out." 

"No," he said, "I'm fine, I'll wait my turn," and so we got into a discussion about how beautiful the weather was today (both of us in our shirt sleeves), and how we haven't got many days like this left before winter, and why was I irritated anyway...the sort of stuff you talk about while waiting in line. 

So I showed him the Halloween card I'd sent to my grandson. It was going from one end of town to another, but I mailed it because kids like mail. It went to the other end of town by way of Pittsburgh, which is about 3 hours away, and then it came back to my little town. It was labeled with a bright yellow sticker that said, No Such Address - Return to sender.

Which is how it came back to me on the 8th of November. 

When I saw it on the kitchen table, I was a little surprised, but automatically assumed that I'd done some stupid thing, but the address was correct. The city was correct. The zip code was correct. I sent a quick text to my daughter to make sure his Amazon package got there safely. It had. 

So I went headed for the post office, where I was standing in line and chatting to a very nice man. Turns out his wife is from Perth, Scotland, and he had a funny story about how his wife has sent her sister a letter, but neglected to put the country on it. The letter returned to them with a bunch of stickers. It was noted that this wasn't a valid American address, and to "try Australia". It went to Australia and traveled around a bit before being returned to sender. 

My letter didn't travel around the world, so I guess I'm lucky for that. 

When it was my turn at the window, I said, pointing to my mask, "I know you cannot see it, but this is my irked face," and I explained the situation. She examined the address and agreed that it was valid. She pulled the sticker off, apologized, and said it would be there tomorrow. 

I took my irked face out the door where I realized that I'd forgotten to put money in the meter in my haste to get inside before the windows closed. I did not get a ticket, but I saw the meter man down the street. 

I drove away feeling like a lucky woman. 


Sunday, November 7, 2021

Good Book

 I finished Watership Down. What a wonderful, richly detailed book! It has been such a long time since I read a story that I simply didn't want to end. 


Dam It

Last night I could not sleep. I finally got up and wrote Cara and Colin their weekly letter. That's important to me, the idea that they are curled up with their hot cup and reading a letter from home. It makes a nice picture in my mind, and so it is what I do. 

This morning, I woke up at 6:30 again. (!!!!!) I tried to go back to sleep, but could not, so I got up and folded the week's laundry. 

This is getting a bit aggravating, and I made up my mind to keep myself busy today and try to get to bed early tonight. If I do not, I will be very tired, and this is not a good way to start a work week. (Good news? 8 hour days, at least for the beginning of the week. Doable). 

I was coming up with all these little projects to keep myself moving today, but we got a message from my sister. Once again the beaver have clogged the tunnel under the abandoned railroad grade on their property, which is across the road from our property. Tim removed another dam from behind the old house on our property last weekend. While he was hunting on Wednesday, he was surprised to see how quickly the beaver had come back to begin the rebuild. 

There is a massive beaver dam up stream from us, where the stream travels through the woods. There are literally acres under water. Removing a dam that size is dangerous. The release of that much water could sweep you away in the current, fill your hip waders and drown you. It's also not our property. However, there are now so many beaver there that they've moved down river, and now it is affecting our properties. 

'We could use your help,' my sister's message said. Tim could use theirs as well. They've got a lot more experience ripping out these dams than we do, and we've got to figure out how to keep our property above water. We'll work together, and maybe get this problem solved.  

Sadly, though, there are just too many beaver and the damage is too much to ignore at this point, between the downed trees and the flooded property. Our weekly work to remove their weekly work has become too big a job. 

I'll bet I sleep well tonight. 

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Saturday

Yesterday morning, I woke up at 4:45 (five minutes before the alarm) and sighed luxuriously. I said, "Oh, I'm so glad I don't have to go to work today. I love Saturday." 

From the other side of the bed, Tim said, "Um...it's Friday."

I guess that I was dreaming something but crushing disappointment is not the best way to start a day. 

But, yesterday passed, and Friday night came. A chicken breast had been simmering in the crockpot all day with celery and onion and seasoning. I cut up potatoes, leaving the skins on, boiled them and then mashed them with butter and cream. I thickened the simmering chicken to make a good gravy, added some peas, and dinner was ready. 

I went to bed Friday night with the heady knowledge that I could sleep as long as I felt like sleeping. Saturday morning I slept in until 5:30. I tried to fall back asleep but could not. (I HATE that) Finally at 6, I got up and began cutting and seeding my pumpkins to roast in the oven for pumpkin puree. 

The first load of laundry is in the washer. An ambitious person would be switching the loads instead of drinking coffee at the computer. (Can't wait until she shows up.)

We had our first snow on Wednesday. It really was the most peculiar day. It snowed big fat flakes that caused us all to marvel as we worked away. Then it would stop, and the sun shone brilliantly. The sky would darken. Some rain would happen along, and then it would turn to sleet and then once again, it was snowing those big fat flakes. We watched the four seasons during our half hour lunch break, and the cycle repeated itself for the entire day, probably 7 or 8 times. There was, of course, no accumulation. The ground is too wet and warm for that, but it made for an interesting day, watching the weather change outside. We all couldn't stop commenting on those changes. 

My first pumpkin is out of the oven, and ready to be skinned and cut up and simmered. We are having a nice pumpkin soup for supper tonight, and I will have the makings for some pumpkin pies on Thanksgiving. 

Thursday, November 4, 2021

That was Then, This is Now

 A comment that AC made really got me thinking. "On the whole, you both seem very patient with each other." 

We are. 

We weren't always, but you learn things as you go along. I came into this marriage and I will admit that I was a broken person. What I did not expect to find was that my husband was a broken person too. 

He was quiet, so it took me a while to figure this out, and I only was able to do so by looking at his life and relationships outside our marriage as we went along, but I realized that a quiet, competent, hard working, smart man had gotten accustomed to being disrespected. Sometimes that disrespect amounted to verbal or emotional abuse. 

He's not like that any more. I'm glad. When someone can't stand up for himself, he sure as heck can't stand up for his wife. We had some pretty tough times. I have a pretty low threshold for crap, and a personality like mine can run roughshod over a passive man. A few years into our marriage, I had to make a conscious decision that I couldn't do that to him. I haven't always been perfect, I admit it.  As time went on, he became stronger. I also tempered my expectations. He is what he is. A good man, honest, hardworking, and happy with a truck that he can fix, no matter what is wrong with it. (Probably happy with his wife for the same reason...)

Yesterday, I needed a crochet hook and he went along for the ride. In the store, I was talking to a friend, and suddenly my quiet husband bristled beside me. He never said a word, but I felt it. I looked at him surprised. His placid face gave nothing away. I could feel it though. I did a quick look around and that's when I saw him. 

When Tim and I met, he worked in a machine shop. I worked there too, on third shift. After we got married, Tim continued to work there on third shift. It wasn't a good job, but machinist jobs were getting hard to come by in the area, thanks to President Reagan's NAFTA deal. 

I was looking at his old night shift supervisor a couple aisles over. Tim did not like him and that dislike stemmed from a 20 year old incident. Tim had received a raise, and in those days, life was a struggle so he was plenty grateful for that raise. I was already working somewhere else, but I was grateful too. 

Except that the raise didn't come. Tim talked to his supervisor about it, but got no where. After several pays of trusting that it was in process, he finally just stayed over at the end of his shift after clocking out. He waited for the supervisor's boss to come in, and when Tim went into the manager's office, Ed laughed at him and said that he had decided not to give him that pay raise until Tim was "man enough to come in and ask for it." Ed also told Tim that he'd never have a day shift job as long as he was manager. 

Tim was enraged. Ed was a prick, a pompous prick, plain and simple, but Tim also felt his supervisor and Ed had talked, and that the supervisor knew the score, and they were both being asses. 

So, Tim picked up his rage and went to another company. He was laughed at for leaving, because the company he was leaving never had a layoff. The company that he was going to was known for them. 

But Tim was really, really mad. He wanted a job in a unionized company, and he found one. He never looked back.

The joke was on all the people who laughed him out the door, because the company that never laid off ended up declaring bankruptcy and going out of business, as poorly managed businesses are wont to do. 

Meanwhile, we struggled for a while, and Tim made up his mind that our living would never be dependent on a company again. 

We got through those lean times, and Tim has done well for himself. He's careful with his money and would never throw it around on exotic cars. It is hard work, but we have created a good life for ourselves, and we are looking forward to some pretty golden 'golden years'. 

Tim runs into people from those old days, and they ask how he's doing and he asks how they're doing, and in the conversation, people always wind up saying words to the effect of "wow...things have worked out for you, haven't they?" He likes that. He likes it a lot. Sometimes he likes it so much it makes me a little nervous, in a 'pride goeth before a fall' sort of way.

So now it is a quarter of a century later, and I'm standing beside my husband who is staring at his old nemesis. I see that man catch sight of Tim and I saw the recognition...and then he dropped his eyes and passed by without a word.

A few seconds. That's all. The friend I was talking to probably never noticed a thing, but when I glanced quickly at Tim, there was a triumphant gleam in his eye. 



Just Another Day

Last week, I told you that we got my daughter's birthday card back.  It had a bright yellow label on it that listed the house as vacant....